Returning to Everyday Life After a Spinal Cord Injury

At first it may be hard to imagine your life after a spinal cord injury. Explore these tips to help you return to an everyday routine.

Returning to Everyday Life after a Spinal Cord Injury

Return to an everyday routine after spinal cord injury.

As you transition from the hospital to home, you’ll probably have many questions about your recovery and what your new life will look like. Your healthcare team will prepare you for what you can expect to be able to do, or what’s called your “functional outcomes.”

Everybody with a spinal cord injury is different in terms of ability to perform activities. Function depends on your unique injury and its severity (often referred to as “complete” or “incomplete”). What’s important is that you get the help you need to make your return to everyday life as trouble-free as possible.

Here are some key activities that you and your healthcare team will be working on to make your transition easier.

Setting you up for success

Your rehabilitation will involve learning new skills. These skills start with the basics, like getting in and out of your wheelchair safely, going to the bathroom and bathing. But soon you’ll progress to more advanced skills, like driving a specially-equipped car, learning a new sport or other ways to keep you mobile and socially engaged.

You’ll also be dependent on some equipment. Your team will help you determine the type of wheelchair that’s best for you. A shower chair or a bench that allows you to safely enter and exit the bathtub may be needed. And, you may even need special equipment for bowel management and bladder care.

Your physical therapist may also recommend certain modifications to your household. These might include ramps and railings to help you get around and products that make access to cupboards, worktops and other areas easier.

During this time, there will be a lot of changes and new things to learn. Eventually, you’ll master all the skills you need, and have all the right equipment and household access so you can perform everyday activities with ease.

Motivate yourself with goals

A very important part of your recovery involves setting goals to work towards. While each person’s goals are different, the overall plan is to move towards resuming your life and getting back as best you can to the routines and activities you enjoyed prior to your injury. People who set personal goals report greater life satisfaction and an easier adjustment to life after their injury.

Some practical tips for setting goals:

  • Start with small, frequent goals that you can accomplish daily. Your physical therapist can recommend some achievable targets
  • For long-term personal goals, think about what you wanted out of life before your accident. It may be possible to strive for the same things
  • Life goals like graduating from college, landing a great job, getting married or starting a family may be more challenging, but are probably still within reach
  • Identify the help you need to achieve your goals, such as adaptive computer equipment, or people or resources from spinal cord injury organisations 

Your overall health

It is important to maintain your general health in addition to managing your spinal cord injury. The type of examinations and tests needed vary according to your age, sex and health history.

Here are some recommended health to do’s:

  • Get a complete medical check-up and influenza (flu) vaccine once a year
  • Make an annual appointment for a urology examination, which may include urodynamic test (special studies of your bladder)
  • Monitor your body weight. Your goal should be to try to maintain your normal weight.
  • Perform exercise regularly, eat healthy and don’t smoke. Your risks of heart attack and stroke are the same as those of people who don’t have spinal cord injury.