What to Expect During Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
No two people will experience their spinal cord injury the same way. Each case is to be treated on an individual basis in regards to the mental and physical injury. Similarly with treatment and rehabilitation, each person will receive tailored and specialized care. Once you have found the ideal center or team, you will establish with your doctors your spinal cord injury rehabilitation plan.
Emotions all around
Perhaps the first thing you will experience during spinal cord injury rehabilitation is your own feelings and emotions. Unless someone has experienced a spinal cord injury, there is no way to know how overwhelming and emotional the whole situation is.
Losing the ability to walk and move like you once did can be a grieving process, and entering the rehabilitation stages is no different. Facing months of slow progress can feel like too much for people to handle, but with the right team and family support, your feelings will change.
Your medical team
Depending on where you choose to receive your rehabilitation care, you will be supported and guided by a variety of professionals on your treatment ‘team’. Often, this team is led by a physiatrist, alongside physical and occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, nurses and nutritionists amongst others, all experienced in working on rehabilitation-focused cases.
You can expect to have many professionals supporting you throughout the rehabilitation period, not only assisting in your recovery, but teaching you about your injury, and how to make adjustments in your everyday life.
Your SCI rehabilitation plan and care
Your care will be based entirely on your injury, situation and body, and be designed around your capabilities and at your speed. Your physical and mental health will be addressed, and cover a myriad of topics, from diet and nutrition, relationship skills and occupational therapy. This total package of care ensures that your mind recovers alongside your body.
Mobility will be the primary phase of rehabilitation, and concentrate on regaining strength and movement back in the arms and legs. Physical therapy will follow, and allow an individual to increase their abilities to move and communicate. By strengthening muscles, it encourages the individuals to use adaptive devices to do both of these things.
An occupational therapy program will assist in the redevelopment of fine motor skills, such as using cutlery, dialling on a phone and other smaller and more precise movements. There will be other programs too, tailored to your needs, which address other problems which are common in spinal cord injury patients, such as bladder and bowel management and dealing with spasticity.
Although a lot of the rehabilitation work will concentrate on physical attributes and aspects, vocational tests will determine the dexterity and cognitive capabilities. These are likely to be used in further determination for future interests and employability.
Rehabilitation will also address your emotional and mental wellbeing, and assist you in ways that will benefit your life after your physical rehabilitation. Just because you experience a spinal cord injury, doesn’t mean you have to avoid all recreational and social activities. You may even find a new activity to take part in!
The spinal cord injury community is a strong one, and by immersing yourself within a space that accepts and validates you as an important person, regardless of your walking ability or whether or not you use a wheelchair, gives you the self-confidence to carry on. Retaining an active social life and attending events designed to support individuals in the SCI community like PushNation Fest, can be key to achieving a balanced and normal lifestyle.
To each, their own
As you undergo your spinal cord injury rehabilitation treatment, remember that although you are an individual case, and your treatment will reflect that, you are not alone in your experiences. Make the most of the support your medical team will provide you with, and learn as much as you can about your injury in order to be fully educated with your situation and prognosis. The road is tough, but it’s not everlasting.
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Spinal Cord Team