Newly-Injured Blog Series: Adjusting to the Shock of SCI

The shock you feel when hearing, “I’m sorry, but you have a spinal cord injury and will never walk again” can be soul-crushing. Everyone assumes you fall into a deep depression, but many find themselves in a state of shock instead. “This is my body now?”

How do you cope with the shock? Time, of course, is your closest ally when it comes to absorbing the blow, but other things can help as well. While no list of tips is the magic tonic, we hope our suggestions from real-life SCI survivors help.

The Importance of Hope

One cannot stress the importance of having hope when you are adjusting to living with a spinal cord injury. There’s more reason to hope than ever before for treatments that will one day lesson spinal cord injuries, from stem cell research to electric stimulation of spinal cord. It’s no longer a fools errand to have a hope in the face of spinal cord injury. From getting involved in research trials to helping raise money for research, it helps both you and the research itself


It may seem simple, but the power of meditation or prayer cannot be underestimated in a crisis like a SCI. Even if you’re not the religious type, learning how to meditate can be a great thing when it comes to dealing with the shock. Through the concentration that meditation requires, healing can occur within the brain. And if you are the religious type, honing in on your spiritual side may help you understand and maybe even help explain what you’re going through.

Get All Levels of Support

From peers to friends and family, getting human support wherever you can find it plays a huge part in healing from the shock of a SCI. Whether they sit and listen as you explain your struggles or offer advice from their own life perspective, knowing people care and want you to survive and thrive can help in more ways than you realize. And if it’s difficult to find the kind of support you need, reach out to local rehab hospitals and get involved in their peer-support programs.

Challenge Expectations

Since the physical changes from a spinal cord injury can be so extreme, challenging preconceived expectations of what doctors and rehab professionals expect from you can be a huge tonic (especially when you’re told you can’t do something anymore). Don’t settle for rehab target goals that are supposedly in line with your level of injury. Incomplete injuries, especially, are a mystery and with the right rehab from the start, much more is possible than was previously thought.

Stay Busy and Be Adventurous

Another way to lessen the shock of your new life is to stay busy. People will tell you this in all types of situations, but when you have a spinal cord injury this is especially true. Whether it’s going back to school, learning a new trade or art form, starting your own business or traveling the world, staying busy and living boldly, dare we say adventurously, is guaranteed to shake that fog of shock.

Be Patient with Your Body (But Work Your Bum Off)

It’s important to be patient with your body as it heals, especially in the first six months after your injury. This is when the swelling in your spinal cord subsides and in many ways your nervous system begins to reboot itself. Intense exercise is a must in reeducating and stimulating your damaged nervous system. Watch this video to learn more about the importance of staying active and Activity-based Therapy.

The nervous system is mysterious and can take longer to heal than was previously assumed by doctors. The combination of persistent patience and intense workouts can go a long way toward recovering from a SCI. Return can happen six months out, or even multiple years after a person’s injury.

Whatever you do, don’t let the state of shock win. It may seem impossible, but with the right mindset – and time – you can exist in a state that will please your soul in nearly any situation.

NW Regional SCI System – Adjusting to Spinal Cord Injury: Sadness, Grief and Moving Forward

– SPNALpedia Learning Portal: Adjusting to the Shock of an SCI

– Shepherd Center: Adapting to SCI

– Mayo Clinic: SCI Coping & Support


Overcoming the Shock of a Spinal Cord Injury (Part 1)

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