A spinal cord injury is irreversible. Doctors understand that the damage brought on by an SCI is done, but scientists are working to find new treatments from prostheses to medications to get patients on the mend. This may promote nerve cell regeneration or improve the function of nerves that remain after a spinal cord injury.
Treatment focuses on preventing further issues and empowering an active and productive lifestyle. We’ll take a further look at some of the developments that have come forth that offer opportunities for patients.
Immobilization and Comfort
Treatment for a spinal cord injury starts at the scene of the accident. You may have seen first responders work to immobilize the spine as gently and quickly as they can using neck collars and carrying boards for transport to the nearest hospital. In the emergency room, doctors focus on immobilization to prevent further spinal cord damage and avoid possible complications by cardiovascular and respiratory difficulties.
Doctors may place patients with an SCI in the intensive care unit depending on the severity of the injury. Patients may need traction to stabilize the spine or bring it to proper alignment. Spinal cord injury patients may find themselves relying on a wheelchair, some in the hopes of regaining the ability to walk and slowly work back to a new normal. However, comfort is king at all times.
Patients should look into the right mattress as recommended by doctors to make sure that a patient is comfortable and not compromising their recovery in any way by putting too much pressure on lower limbs, or putting pressure on the back with coils as opposed to a memory foam mattress. Firm mattresses are recommended for certain back and sciatic-related issues, and a futon mattress is a viable option for those who help patients to be on standby in the room when needed for assistance.
When it comes to recovery from these injuries, experts recommend a regulated exercise regimen with workouts at home or with the help of a licensed therapist. An exercise program includes stretching, aerobic exercise, strength training, and setting goals each step of the way in recovery.
People with SCI should stretch regularly to prevent muscle and joint stiffness, especially in the knee joint and ankle joint when learning to rewalk. However, a good flexibility program should work out all of the major muscle groups.
Aerobic exercise is recommended to combat the risk of certain cardiovascular disorders that have been linked to spinal cord injuries. A “talk test” will help gauge how intense a workout should be. If you are doing moderate-intensity exercises, you should be able to talk not sing. If you are doing vigorous exercises, you shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing to catch your breath. This is not part of strength training, which should target the major muscle groups that someone with an SCI can control.
While wheelchairs and crutches can be commonplace for people recovering from spinal cord injuries, medical experts are bringing the recovery process into the 21st century. A robotic exoskeleton has been designed to give patients with SCIs and some neurological disorders the chance to stand and walk during the rehabilitation process. These exoskeletons are designed to properly support the spine, trunk, and legs while promoting correct movement and gait in all rehab phases.
These exoskeletons are approved by the FDA for use by SCI patients, as well as stroke patients, as robotic powered movement provides total support and trajectory assistance for patients with paralysis of lower limbs. These exoskeletons allow for patient movement and encourage muscle activity in order to rebuild strength in the lower body while monitoring knee and ankle joints for a natural gait without discomfort. It’s just the latest innovation and the first step in ending the once thought detriment of an SCI.