Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation
Spinal Cord Injury Health and Wellness Tips
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 858-939-6942.
Additional travel tips.
- Carry all essential items with you in a gym or travel bag
- Carry prescriptions with you
- If traveling by car, don't let the gas tank get below half full on long trips
- If you are on a bowel program, take that into consideration when timing your travel
- Join a nationwide auto club that can assist with trip planning and emergencies
- Keep your seat cushion with you
- Make reservations early; acknowledge that you are in a wheelchair and any special needs you have
- Travel light, and do laundry more often so you have less to carry
- Travel with an attendant if you need assistance with hygiene or eating
- When flying, arrive early so that you are able to preboard
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 619-522-3724.
Preventing overheating with quadriplegia.
- Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regime
- Avoid exercising in extreme heat or humidity
- Avoid sitting in the sun for prolonged periods of time
- Drink the appropriate amount of water as directed by your physician
- Take plenty of breaks
- Use fans or a misting spray bottle to keep cool
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