Spinal Cord Injuries and Associated Secondary Conditions

After a spinal cord injury occurs, there are several physical complications that may occur. Along with fatigue, skin problems and nutrition, consider the following secondary conditions:

Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD)

A serious and potentially life-threatening emergency associated with SCI, AD causes the autonomic nervous system to become overactive. In other words, communication between the body and brain is disrupted above the injury level. This means body functions, such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate become unregulated.

Solutions: Drugs that decrease heart rate and relax blood vessels may be used to treat AD.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections may develop when chest and abdominal muscles are weak, such as in cervical and thoracic SCI. Difficulty or inability to cough contributes to the development of respiratory infection. Common infections include the common cold, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

Solutions: Antibiotics may be prescribed to clear the chest.

Spasticity

Spasticity is characterized by stiff, rigid muscles that make movements — like walking or talking — more difficult.

Solutions: Muscle relaxants and anti-spastic drugs may be given.

General Pain

It is common for the pain caused by the injury to manifest even in areas with limited or no sensation. SCI patients using wheelchairs might develop shoulder and/or arm pain or even tendinitis.

Solutions: Medication may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and painkillers.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, such as neurogenic and nerve pain, often accompanies paralysis.

Solutions: Medication may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and painkillers. Paracetamol works to reduce pain and fever by reducing the release of chemicals that are linked to pain and inflammation. Paracetamol may be recommended for mild to moderate pain. It may also be used in combination with stronger pain medicines if you have severe pain.

Depression

Depression in SCI patients is unfortunately all too common. That being said, there are many medications that are used to treat this disorder. Sometimes, antidepressant medications are combined.

Solutions: Antidepressant medications, tricylic drugs, SSRIs, anxiety medications.

Disadvantages of Medication

After SCI your bowel motility is reduced. To complicate matters, using opioid medications can increase constipation discomfort and can lead to serious long-term bowel complications. Additionally, it is common for users to develop both dependence and tolerance of the medication.

Other side-effects of opioids include drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, headache, nausea, memory loss, sleep apnea, lowered immunity and testosterone levels, and depression — not to mention the possible risk of overdose.

The protective lining of your stomach is also affected by the above medications. Long-term use can lead to damage of the stomach wall, a serious complication. And due to the spinal cord injury, it may be difficult to notice discomfort in your stomach caused by these anti-inflammatory medications. To combat this issue, a doctor will need to monitor the pain medication schedule closely.