Injuries to the joints can be extremely painful and result in a lower quality of life by damaging mobility, which in turn compromises recovery efforts. The spine is the longest series of joints in the body. As such, recovery from spinal cord injury follows similar protocols to the treatment of other joint injuries while also presenting more challenges.
Five routine steps apply to all non-life-threatening spinal injuries. This begins with the modified R.I.C.E. protocol. As the focus shifts to recovery, patients will need to make a conscious effort to eat properly, stick with physical rehabilitation programs, manage pain and continue efforts to prevent swelling.
R.I.C.E Formula for Spinal Cord Injury
The first steps are rest and application of ice to prevent swelling. Since compression and elevation are not options in a first aid situation, the prescription for rest takes the form of immobilizing the injured person.
Until medical personnel arrive, the goal is to keep the entire spine in the same position that does not require exertion of muscles. An ice pack can be used only if the injured area is accessible.
Recovery requires certain nutrients in excess. Ensuring these nutrients are available can greatly speed efforts and lead to more success. Some common dietary goals are to:
- Increase amounts of vitamins C and E as these are proven to reduce damage and aid repair of cartilage;
- Eliminate tobacco use, which is known to deplete vitamin C;
- Reduce overall calories to prevent weight gain;
- Increase protein, fiber and liquids.
Working for Mobility
Early rehabilitation efforts provides a higher success rate for full recovery. The use of weight-bearing and range-of-motion exercise will depend on the location and extent of injury, the therapist’s background and the patient’s preferences.
Whether rehabilitation makes use of prosthetic devices, specialized machines, traditional coaching, yoga or a combination of these, the patient needs to keep with the regimen. Supportive family and friends can help greatly with this.
Experiencing severe pain is potentially just as traumatic to the body as the original injury. Doctors prescribe pain medication to prevent this ongoing trauma.
However, pain is also an important part of rehabilitation. It provides a rapid signal that the body isn’t ready for a particular exertion. It also offers a gauge of progress. Patients will want to eliminate reliance on pain medication as soon as possible.
Prevention of Swelling
The body may respond to rehabilitation efforts with swelling. This can hinder recovery efforts. The therapist and doctor will make suggestions for use of cold packs to prevent swelling and possibly heat to release muscle tension. Plenty of high-quality rest is also important to the prevention of swelling and the body’s efforts to rebuild for a full recovery.