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Here’s How Informative Fact Sheets from the Spinal Cord Injury Model System Can Help

By Lesley M. Hudson, MA
SCIMS Co-Project Director

If you are a person with a spinal cord injury (SCI), or a family member of someone living with SCI, and want to live a healthier and more productive life, there are some helpful and healthcare consumer-friendly fact sheets available to you at the click of your mouse.

Adaptive sports and recreation, as well as management of chronic pain, are the focus of two of more than a dozen fact sheets developed by the Spinal Cord Injury Model System (SCIMS) and available online at Shepherd Center, which has been designated as a Model System since 1982, helped develop the fact sheets on sports and recreation and chronic pain. Other facilities in the 14-member SCIMS have contributed other fact sheets posted on the website.

Below is a synopsis of the chronic pain and sports/recreation fact sheets. I urge all people with spinal cord injury and their family members to go online and examine all of the available fact sheets. I think you will find them to be valuable resources that will help you live a healthier and more productive life.

Pain after Spinal Cord Injury

For many individuals with SCI, pain is a serious secondary complication. This fact sheet describes the various types of pain that have been reported. Among them is neuropathic pain, which is caused by an abnormal communication between the nerves that have been damaged by the injury and the brain, where the nerve signals are interpreted. Another type of pain is visceral pain, which is found in the abdomen (stomach and digestive area) and is often described as being similar to cramps. It can be caused by a medical problem, such as constipation, a kidney stone, an ulcer, a gallstone or even appendicitis. It may not have the usual symptoms, and it is important to seek medical attention to make sure it is not due to a serious condition.

The fact sheet also recommends pain management strategies using such treatments as:

  • changes in mobility equipment
  • exercise
  • physical therapy
  • therapeutic massage
  • acupuncture
  • electrical nerve stimulation
  • psychological treatment

The fact sheet also discusses various medications. While many medications can reduce pain, none do so completely, and all medications have possible side effects, some of which can be serious. Surgical treatments are explored and suggestions are made for effective prevention and self-care activities. Resources for additional online information are provided.

For more information on the Shepherd Pain Institute, which treats chronic pain associated with SCI and other conditions, click here.

Adaptive Sports and Recreation

This fact sheet explores opportunities for individuals with SCI to engage in many types of sports and recreational activities that have been adapted for their specific use.

Among these are: individual exercise routines; recreational individual or team sports; competitive or elite sports, and performing arts activities. The importance of physical activity is discussed, from the physical benefit standpoint, as well as from the emotional balance perspective. Instructions on how to begin involvement in sports and recreation are provided. There is a special section on various sports chairs, featuring descriptions and illustrations of a variety of equipment designed to enhance the experience. The fact sheet concludes with a discussion of barriers to getting involved and how to overcome them, things to watch out for, like skin breakdown and overuse injuries, and information on additional resources available.

For more information on sports and recreation therapy programs at Shepherd Center, click here.

LESLEY HUDSON, MA, is co-director of the Southeastern Regional Spinal Cord Injury Model System at Shepherd Center. She is also the executive director of the American Spinal Injury Association. She has worked in a number of administrative and research positions at Shepherd Center since 1976.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.