Some fall injuries or motor vehicle accidents leave you with permanent damage to your body. A spinal cord injury is one of them. This kind of injury has a reputation for inflicting disabilities such as paralysis, so it is natural to wonder how much you can recover from this event, if at all.
While the severity of spinal cord injuries varies greatly, understanding what generally happens after the injury can help you know what to expect as you attempt to recover.
Initially, SCI patients often spend time in the intensive care unit to monitor for complications and begin recovery treatments. The highest priority is preventing further damage by immobilizing the spine.
If you receive a SCI, you will likely ingest medications to reduce swelling and pain. Surgery might be necessary to stabilize the vertebrae or remove bone fragments pressing on the spinal cord.
After the initial treatment, SCI patients typically transfer to a rehabilitation facility. Here they undergo intensive therapy to improve function, mobility and independence. Goals include regaining strength, coordination and control of the body through occupational and physical therapies. Patients also receive counseling to cope with the life changes that come with paralysis and loss of sensation.
The spinal cord does have some ability to repair itself, so many patients see small improvements in the weeks and months after injury. However, the recovery plateau happens around two years post-injury for most people.
Complete SCI recovery is very rare. More often, people regain some feeling and movement but have lasting paralysis and limitations. With dedication and support, you can achieve your highest possible level of independence and adjust to your new normal over time.
While SCI recovery is challenging, numerous resources exist to help you through the process, such as your rehabilitation team, support groups, continuing therapy and assistive technologies. The road to a new normal is long, but you do not have to walk it alone.