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The following are some basic tips for living with a spinal cord injury. Use the links below to jump to the section that interests you.
Good food and good health go hand-in-hand.
How much should I weigh?
Because muscle size is reduced after a spinal cord injury, your ideal body weight may be less than before. A dietitian can help you determine your ideal body weight.
What is the big deal about fiber?
Fiber is the part of the plant that you cannot digest. Because it passes right through our systems, it is great for helping us to have bowel movements, and keeping us regular. Good sources of fiber include beans, bran, fruit, whole grains (not white bread), vegetables and popcorn. By the way, add fiber to your diet slowly. Too much, too fast can give you gas.
Should I change what or how much I drink?
Fluids are very important after a spinal cord injury, especially if you have a wound that needs to heal. If you have a fluid restriction, talk to your doctor about how much you should be drinking. If you do not have a restriction, you should drink 10 to 12 cups of caffeine-free beverages each day.
How do I know if I'm drinking enough fluids?
If your urine is pale yellow, you are doing great.
Is there anything I can eat to keep my skin healthy?
Eating foods that are good sources of protein, zinc and vitamins A and C help keep your skin healthy. Remember, more food means more calories, which can add to weight gain and make transfers a lot harder. The goal is to eat a balanced diet, taking in enough calories to maintain a healthy weight. You may need to eat smaller portions, while being sure to eat plenty of the right kinds of foods.
Travel and Transportation
How do I drive again?
Talk with your occupational therapist. He or she can give you an idea of whether you are ready for a driving evaluation, recommend the adaptive driving program, and tell you about modifications that can be made to your vehicle, as necessary.
How can I get a disabled parking placard?
When you are in rehab the social worker can help you get and complete forms in order to get a parking placard. If you have already had rehab, applications for parking placards are available from the DMV and need to be filled out by your physician.
Do I have to have a driver’s license to get a parking placard?
No, you do not have to have a license or drive your own car. You can use the placard in any vehicle that you ride in.
For more information about Sharp Rehab's Adaptive Driving Program, please call 858-939-6966.
Additional Travel Tips
Keeping Skin Healthy
Why does everyone talk about skin?
Skin breakdown is the leading cause of complications for people who have had spinal cord injury. It can result in infection, surgery, even death.
Why is skin so prone to problems?
Poor circulation is related to the majority of skin problems. Pressure, from staying in one position without shifting, decreases blood flow to the area. Smoking further decreases the efficiency of circulation, and sets you up for problems. If you smoke try to cut back or quit, and if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
What can I do to decrease my risk of skin problems or ulcers?
Eat a healthy diet, and don’t let yourself get too thin. You need a little padding between your bones and your skin. Also, don’t forget to drink fluids. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks don’t count. They cause you to lose fluids.
If I have pretty healthy skin now, do I have anything to be concerned about?
There are a few things that can make you more susceptible to problems. Incontinence and sitting in wet or soiled clothing can cause skin problems, fever increases your risk of skin breakdown and, unfortunately, as you age your skin may change and become more prone to problems. Developing good habits now may help you manage skin problems later.
For more information about Sharp Rehab's programs for healthy skin and managing wounds or pressure ulcers, please call 619-522-3729.
Preventing Overheating With Quadriplegia
For more information about living well with a spinal cord injury, please contact a clinical evaluator at 858-939-3097 or send us an email.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's rehabilitation services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician who can refer you to a physical therapist, call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about rehabilitation, visit Rehabilitation in Adult Health or read the Rehabilitation News archive.