Health after Spinal Cord Injury

We asked  some of our women team members to discuss challenges they face, with accessing and maintaining, health after spinal cord injury.  

There were several areas that the Bard Care women discussed:  

  • Reproductive Health 
  • Mental Health 
  • Aging with SCI   

Reproductive Health after Spinal Cord Injury is an area that may be difficult. After a SCI, limited sensation can pose a threat. The woman’s body may not have the ability to provide the ‘normal’ symptoms that would indicate there may be a health concern. Regular check ups can be the best line of defense.   

What if you can’t access an examination table from your wheelchair?  

“It has been my experience that if I plan ahead, I can take a family member or a care provider to assist in my transfer. I also make a point to explain my physical limitations prior my appointment. This will allow the physician’s office to prepare.”   

One of our team members pointed out, “Don’t be surprised if your physician is unable to perform a full examination because you cannot get onto an examination or procedural table. There is a general lack of examination equipment specially designed to meet our needs. For example, it is difficult for me to get weighed on a standard scale. I had to be proactive in this area and called different health providers to find a scale that I could roll my wheelchair onto. Now, I can access these scales prior my scheduled doctor's appointment and have my current weight to add to my health history.”   

Does a spinal cord injury impact mental health?  

“Depending on where you are in your life when your injury occurs, your reaction to the physical changes, could impact your mental health. I was a very independent woman prior my accident. Within seconds, I became a person that needed assistance with simple task like brushing my teeth. In the first few weeks after my injury, I had to work hard on focusing on my ‘gains’ and not my ‘losses’. I still use this technique today. Post injury, it is important for me to have positive coping mechanisms to keep my mind in a positive place.”  

“I had to convince myself that there was no shame in seeking professional medical help regarding my anxiety and depression. I thought that receiving help was a sign of weakness. I must admit, I denied myself the proper help for years. Once I realized that my injury, created certain challenges (both physical and mental) I spoke with a counselor. I was so surprised by the healing I received by talking through my emotions. Seeking professional help for my anxiety and depression has given me quality of life. Now, I have regular visits with my physician to address my mental health. I am a happier, more productive person now that I understand the importance of staying healthy mentally.”   

What challenges come with aging with a spinal cord injury?   

“I was injured at such a young age. The years of added strain on my upper limbs, due to repetitive motions, has added wear on my joints and muscles. I have experienced a progressive reduction in mobility. As I age, I have experienced weight gain over time from my limited ability to be physically active. I just had my thirty-ninth anniversary of my injury. That’s a long time! It is more important than ever, in my life to make an intentional effort to look after my health.”   

Being your own advocate can be the catalyst to ensure that your future health is optimal. 

The BARD Care Team

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