Living With Spinal Cord Injury: Battling Fatigue

July 2, 2019
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Living with Spinal cord injury

One of the difficulties of living with paralysis is the daily struggle with fatigue. Fatigue is extremely common in those that have suffered spinal cord injuries and other causes of paralysis.

What can you do to battle fatigue?

Here are three keys for me:

  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise

Getting Consistent Sleep

A common struggle for those living with paralysis is getting consistent sleep. This is extremely difficult for me. I have an entrepreneurial mind and any time I wake up during the night it’s very difficult for me to turn off my mind and go back to sleep. This has always been the case even before my injury but now I struggle to sleep for other reasons. Nerve pain in my right leg can make it difficult for me to sleep. Pain and discomfort in other areas of my body may also bother me when I’m trying to get comfortable in a sleeping position. But here are a few things that have helped me get consistent sleep:

Living with Spinal cord injury

Go to Sleep and Wake up at the Same Time Every Day

The more variety there is when I go to sleep and when I wake up the more difficult it is for me to sleep through the night. So I try as much as possible to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

White Noise

Noises in the house or outside can wake me up so I always have a device in my room that is making white noise such as a fan or air purifier to block out any additional noises.

Control the Climate

I am not able to regulate my temperature well due to my spinal cord injury. This is a common problem in many people who have paralysis. So it’s important to maintain a good temperature in the room. In the summer months, I generally have a ceiling fan blowing on me throughout the night and in the winter months, I used several blankets. I live in Southern California where we have a very moderate climate but if you live someplace with the more extreme temperatures then it’s even more important that you control your climate while sleeping.

Eating to Live More Than Living to Eat

Nutrition has become more and more important to me over the years since my injury. I am trained as a chiropractor so I have in-depth knowledge of nutrition and would regularly give my patients advice on nutrition when I was in practice. But after my injury, I really stopped caring about what I ate for a long time. I began to put on weight and became more and much more unhealthy.

This led to even more fatigue. But about two years ago I began to get serious about my nutrition again and it’s made a tremendous difference in how I feel and look. I don’t always eat well but I eat more good food now than I ever have and it’s made a tremendous difference.

One of the easiest ways to improve your nutrition is by improving your breakfast. As part of my breakfast every morning I have a healthy smoothie here’s what we put in it:

  • Two Scoops of Protein Powder (I use Warrior Strong Wellness Collagen and Bone Broth protein powder)
  • One Frozen Banana
  • Four Frozen Strawberries
  • 2 Tablespoons of Organic Chia Seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons of Organic Cacao Nibs
  • 2 Tablespoons of Organic Flaxseed (grind the cacao nibs and flaxseed in a coffee grinder)
  • Almond Milk

Along with nutrition, make sure that you’re drinking an abundance of water. I recommend drinking at least half your body weight in ounces every day to promote healthy nutrition. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you should be drinking at least 75 ounces of water every day.

Move Your Body

The last way to battle fatigue is by moving your body as much as possible. It is easy to get extremely sedentary when you’re paralyzed. But any activity is better than none. Whether it’s just doing some exercises in your bed, pushing your wheelchair around, or playing some sort of wheelchair sport it’s important to move your body every day. 

One of the best ways that I found to move my body is by getting into my standing frame every day. Standing is extremely important for your bones, circulation, nerve pain, and many other reasons. I have a gliding standing frame that I get in and move my arms and in turn, it moves my legs. This gives me exercise while at the same time the benefits of standing.

If you focus on these three areas you will see a tremendous difference in your fatigue.

It’s time to not just survive but thrive!

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About the Author: Bill Davis

Dr. Bill Davis survived a spinal cord injury on November 26, 2011. After years of hopelessness he found a renewed purpose and is now on a mission to share hope and healing with the paralysis community for the glory of God.

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