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What to Do When a Spinal Injury Leaves You Unable to Walk

Update Date: Aug 14, 2019 11:11 AM EDT

Learning that you may never walk again is devastating. When you have a severe spinal injury that impairs your ability to move, you may find yourself focusing on all the things you're losing in your life. However, in order to move on and regain your independence, it's important to limit the amount of time you spend grieving your old life and instead focus on how to get the most out of your new life. This guide will help you learn what to do when a spinal cord injury leaves you unable to walk. 

Seek Treatment

The first thing that you should do when you get a spinal cord injury is seek treatment.

It can feel overwhelming to consider surgeries or physical therapy, especially when you've been told that you may never walk again. You may wonder if it's worth it to put money towards a body that feels broken. However, it's important to seek treatment so that you can make your body as functional as it can be. Additionally, treatments may prevent or limit chronic pain from the injury site. 

For more information about the type of treatment you can receive for your spinal cord injury, check out the Central Texas Spine Institute

Research Medical Devices

While continuing to strive to improve your mobility, you should also research which medical devices you can use to make you more mobile now. Wheelchairs aren't one size fits all, and it's important to consider your lifestyle and your needs before purchasing one. 

You may also want to consider purchasing a grabber-style instrument to help you reach items that are far away. Smart Home devices can allow you to retain independence in your home even when you can't reach light switches or fans. And small lap trays may help you carry items while wheeling your chair. 

Talk to your insurance provider about which accommodations are seen as medical devices and what they might be willing to help you pay for. 

Work Out

It may seem counterintuitive to focus on working out when part of your body isn't working at all. However, if your legs aren't working the way that they should, you have to compensate by building up your core muscles and your arms. The sooner you can build up those muscles, the sooner you'll be able to reclaim your independence. 

Often, you may have muscles spasms and cramps after a spinal cord injury. Learning how to stretch your muscles--even the ones that you can't feel or use--can limit these pains and help you lead a more comfortable life. 

Consider Clothing Options

Getting dressed in the morning is a lot harder when part of your body isn't working the way you'd like it to. Changing the types of clothes you wear can make it easier for you to get dressed and undressed independently. 

Additionally, when you're in a wheelchair for most of the day, certain clothes that looked good on you before may not look good any more. For example, miniskirts may become more trouble than they're worth when you start spending the majority of your day sitting. High heels may slide off your foot plate, and flip flops may fall off your feet entirely. 

Reconsidering your wardrobe can reduce your frustration as you go through your day to day activities. 

Relearn Your Hobbies

Losing your ability to walk is especially hard for people who may have led active lives. You may need to locate a new career, if your old one is no longer accessible to you, or you may have to give up on hobbies that you loved. This can be really hard to come to terms with. 

Luckily, many hobbies that you enjoyed before can continue to be enjoyed in a slightly altered form. You may need to get special equipment and re-teach yourself how to enjoy your hobbies from your chair, but if you have enough grit and determination, you can do everything from driving to skiing even without the use of your legs. Research how other people with spinal injuries have managed to continue the hobbies you love and work at retraining those skills. 

Find Support

Even as you learn to work in a body that doesn't work the way that it used to, it's important that you also continue to take care of your mental health. Family and friends can only do so much, which is why it's important to find support from people who understand what you're going through. 

Finding a support group can give you a safe space to vent feelings of frustration and disappointment throughout your recovery. They can also offer tips and tricks from their personal journeys, which may help you, and offer inspiration for your future.

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