Living the SCI Life Drug-Free

April 2, 2019
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Thriving with Paralysis without Drugs

A majority of individuals who have survived a spinal cord injury take medications on a daily basis. Although there are times when this is necessary, I want to encourage you that many times there is a natural drug-free solution to many issues that spinal cord injury survivors deal with on a daily basis.

All medications have side effects. And long-term use of any medication has even more detrimental effects on our minds and body.

Over the past 7+ years since I had been living with a spinal cord injury and thriving, I have taken very little medications and no daily medications.

So in this blog, I’m going to discuss the natural solutions that we employ to keep my mind and body as healthy as possible without taking medications.

There are three main reasons why people with spinal cord injuries take medications:

  • Nerve Pain and Spasms
  • Digestive Issues
  • Urinary Issues

Now there are many other reasons why someone with a spinal cord injury may be taking medications that may or may not be related to your spinal cord injury but today I’m going to focus on the three most common reasons and what I do to deal with these realities of living with spinal cord injury without drugs.

Nerve Pain and Spasms

Nerve pain and muscle spasms are a daily reality for many of us with spinal cord injuries. I get mine in my right leg. It can randomly happen from my hip to my toes and sometimes it affects my whole leg. You may get a similar type of burning, aching, irritating numbness, tingling sensation in a part of your body or multiple parts. Spasms are also a reality for many of us when we move or change positions.

Resolve to Deal with Some Pain and Spasms

I made a decision a long time ago that I was not going to take daily medications for nerve pain or spasms so I needed to find other ways to deal with these issues and minimize them as much as possible (these are the things that I’ve outlined below).

My nerve pain and spasms are much better today than they were previously due to the things that I do but some days are better than others. If you want to experience no pain or spasms at all than you may choose to take some type of strong medication on a daily basis. But as many people who take daily medication for nerve pain or spasms tell me even the strongest medication does not take the symptoms away completely and side effects will come with it. I have found that it’s better to just realize that at times I’m going to have to deal with some nerve pain and spasms than to always have to deal with what the medications are doing to my mind and body.

Standing Frame

Standing on a daily basis has been the single most important thing that I’ve done for myself when it comes to nerve pain, spasms, circulation, bone strength, and many other positive benefits. Our bodies are made to stand. If you never get into a standing position you will have to deal with more issues. I purchased a standing frame after saving up for quite some time about three or four years ago and I now stand 30 to 60 minutes every day. This has made a tremendous difference in my nerve pain and spasms. I personally use the Easy Stand Glider and you can find more information about it here. I have been extremely happy with it.

Wheelchair Ergonomics

Along with standing every day another important aspect of minimizing nerve pain and spasms is making sure that your wheelchair is properly set up. The position of your backrest, cushion, footplate, etc. all have a dramatic impact on how your body deals with sitting all day long. Make sure you have a good wheelchair that has been set up by a wheelchair expert who understands spinal cord injuries to minimize nerve pain, spasms, and other common issues.

Your personal sitting habits can also contribute to your nerve pain and spasms. I have a tendency to put my left arm around the top of my wheelchair twisting my hips. This puts a lot of pressure into my right hip and can contribute to my nerve pain. When I more conscious of how I’m sitting it reduces my pain as well. You may have these types of habits as well that could be contributing to your nerve pain and spasms.

It’s also important to make sure you’re doing consistent pressure releases to prevent pressure ulcers but also to relieve irritation on your pelvis and the nerves that go down into your legs.

Upper Cervical Chiropractic

Another key part of my health has been maintaining my alignment with upper cervical chiropractic. Upper Cervical Chiropractic is a specialty within the chiropractic profession that is safe for spinal cord injury survivors. Upper cervical refers to the upper neck. Before my injury, this was the specialty that I practiced so I have extensive knowledge when it comes to all types of chiropractic and especially this gentle, specific, and highly effective form of care.

When you suffer a spinal cord injury you have also suffered head, neck, and spine trauma. Head, neck and spine injuries cause the connective tissue that holds the spine in place to be stretched and torn. This causes the spine to break down and lock into a stressed position. Sitting in a wheelchair all day with your spine in this unhealthy alignment can lead to a variety of problems including nerve pain and spasms.

Upper Cervical Chiropractors work from the top down ensuring that the head and neck relationship is balanced. If the head is tilted even slightly to one side there will be compensation throughout the entire spinal column. If you have never had your upper neck alignment evaluated by an upper cervical specialist since your injury I would highly recommend it. You can find specialists who do this type of work at Upper Cervical Awareness. This site has more information and a directory for you to find a doctor in your area.


Another important factor in thriving with paralysis and especially as it relates to nerve pain is regular massage therapy. I budget to have a massage every three weeks. This makes a tremendous difference in my swelling, spasms, contractures, and nerve pain. Once again if you have not had a massage therapist thoroughly evaluate you and lengthen stiff muscles while improving circulation I would highly recommend it.

Digestive Issues

Another common reason why those who are dealing with the effects of paralysis take medications is for digestive related issues including constipation.

Nutrition is the most important factor when it comes to having normal digestion for anyone including those who have a neurogenic colon from the effects of spinal cord injury. Whether you are doing a bowel program with or without digital stimulation, have a colostomy, or are able to go to the bathroom on your own; nutrition is a key factor in having successful bowel movements on a DAILY basis.

It’s important to understand that our bodies are made to have a bowel movement every day whether you’re paralyzed or not. And if we are not having a bowel movement every day we are having a backup of stool in our colon which is unhealthy and can lead to a variety of other health issues including headaches, more constipation, pain, infections, and other health issues.

Nutrition is also the key when it comes to avoiding medications for digestive related issues. Eating a diet that is rich in healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, avocados, flaxseed, and other healthy fats is very important. Also making sure that you have adequate fiber in your diet including Chia seeds, almonds and other nuts, apples, berries and other fruits, quinoa, and a variety of vegetables is crucial.

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.

I am able to not take any medications related to my digestive system, not even stool softeners because of my consistent nutrition. You can do it too but you have to be very conscious of how you eat. But it will make a tremendous difference in how you feel and function.

Urinary Issues

Urinary issues are just part of the paralysis life. Having a neurogenic bladder that causes leaks, incontinence, and the inability to urinate on your own is par for the course. Many doctors will tell you to take urinary medications on a daily basis but for over seven years now I have been thriving without them. Also, antibiotics are frequently used because of regular urinary tract infections. In the past two years, I’ve only had to use antibiotics for a UTI once and that was just recently when I developed symptoms on the way to the airport leaving for a trip so I was not able to do my natural method effectively. I will get urinary tract infection symptoms from time to time but I am able to deal with them naturally.

So let’s discuss how to prevent urinary issues including urinary tract infections and what to do if you begin to develop the symptoms. Whether you have a suprapubic catheter like me, do intermittent catheterization, use a Foley catheter, or can urinate on your own the following information will be beneficial for you.

The single most important thing you can do to prevent UTIs and have a healthy urinary system is to drink lots of water. As I mentioned in the digestive section, you should aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces every day.

Along with drinking water, it’s good to have fresh lemon in your water at least half the time to help keep your pH balanced and your immune system strong. Cranberry extract supplements also help to prevent UTIs and I take those on a daily basis.

But the single best UTI prevention and a natural way to treat UTI symptoms when they begin is fresh raw garlic. Raw garlic helps to promote a healthy immune system because it is a natural antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal substance.

The thing about raw garlic is it does not make you stink or give you bad breath. Cooked garlic will but raw garlic does not. You can ask my wife 🙂

As a preventative I eat raw garlic in my food about three times per week. If I develop any type of urinary tract infection symptoms such as odor, leaks, etc. I will increase my raw garlic consumption to 3 to 5 times per day for 2 to 3 days until the symptoms are gone.

My favorite way to eat raw garlic is with my lunch. My wife will make me bison, ground beef, or chicken over quinoa or another whole-grain with vegetables, fresh avocado, almonds, and raw garlic. It’s delicious and extremely healthy!

Believe me, it is possible to live and thrive with paralysis without taking daily medications. I have been doing it for over seven years and you can too. Even if you don’t completely eliminate medications from your life I want to encourage you to begin to implement some of these natural and drug-free habits they can make a tremendous difference in the way that you feel and function.

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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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