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Why those with spinal-cord injury experience fatigue and how to prevent it

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Fatigue is a condition that anyone can experience. When a person living with spinal-cord injury (SCI) experiences fatigue it’s important to look at some possible reasons why. Many times, having SCI affects the ability of the nerves to control different systems of the body along all mediums including internal temperature regulation and limb control. SCI tends to affect legs the most, considering legs are designed to carry the body and are six times stronger than arms.

The energy that arms exert to move the body is much greater and is not natural biological design. Aside from this, there are many other factors involved, such as neurogenic bladder issues, urinary tract infections, sleep apnea, constant pain, depression and medication effects. Of course there are many variations of SCI and different levels of function, so each injury becomes unique in its affect on the body and mind.

Implementing a few changes in your daily routine can help overcome fatigue and possibly avoid it altogether. Here are a few suggestions:

 

  • Any amount of daily exercise is beneficial in battling fatigue. The balance is in knowing your limits and learning that body functionality needs to be used in order to maintain current mobility. The illusion is in believing that the body is broken and unable to be used. This illusion tends to feed into a victimization mentality for the person with the injury and those around them, thus creating separation and distance in personal relationships and causing fatigue.
  • Establishing good eating habits as well as incorporating vitamins and herbs into your daily routine may assist in lessening the possibilities of fatigue.
  • Stress, anxiety and depression can contribute to fatigue. Alleviate these factors by practicing relaxation techniques, meditation, resiliency training, life-planning strategies and also by participating in support groups.
  • Tools are essential to assist in everyday living and can help in reducing fatigue. Many different types of adaptive equipment are available such as wheelchairs, walkers, grabbers, adaptive car controls, etc. These tools bring back a level of ease and function for everyday living.
  • Time management and realizing that all things are achievable may also help in reducing fatigue. Many times people set expectations on how fast they can achieve something and put undo stress on their system. The truth is this, all things are achievable, but may be slower and require different techniques to achieve the same results. A good example is the time it takes to get ready in the morning. Where it used to take half an hour, now it takes an hour. By planning and accommodating to this added time a person builds the habit and trust in their current abilities, thus creating a positive re-enforcement loop that leads to a greater sense of Independence.

Medication at times may help relieve fatigue, however all drugs do carry side effects. Caution is warned when doing this. Please consult a doctor who knows and is aware of the full extent of the SCI as well as having a good understanding of mixing medications such as pain, anti-anxiety diabetes, etc.

 

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