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Spinal Cord Injury Community

The Meaning of Mindful Movement

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
12/15/20  4:36 PM PST
Mindful Movement with SCI

I often use the term mindful movement when describing how I manage my time, energy and risk with a spinal cord injury. I have come to understand that I must be hyper-aware and very precise with how I move physically and treat myself to prevent further injury that would most certainly compound the difficulty I already live with.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you live an active, healthy lifestyle.

Choose The Best Equipment

My racing background trained me to be very aware of the machines I use to enhance my performance. I pay close attention to and maintain perfect working condition of my wheelchair, walker, canes and any other mobility devices I use to get around. After all, I did suffer a spinal cord injury due to a mechanical failure of my motorcycle. Lesson learned!

The right medical supplies are vital to prevent self injury. Select products that fit your anatomy and compliment your chemistry. Allergic reactions can occur due to allergies to plastics, rubbers or chemicals.

I also ensure the proper fit and use of all my adaptive devices such as kitchen tools like forks, knives, heat protection and assisted grabbers. Misuse of these items can result in a preventable injury.

Use Leverage

I must consider how to use leverage (the exertion of force by means of a lever or an object used in the manner of a lever) to make functional activities happen safely and without injuring myself. I think about where I place my hands and feet when standing or transferring to and from a car, bed, or wheelchair. I do this to prevent excessive force on the joints and long bones of my body.

All too often I hear of friends with spinal cord injuries suffering limb fractures caused by improper body mechanics when transferring. To which, I look at the equipment near me for assistance and protection. On my wheelchair, I rely on my footplate to keep me feet flexed and together when transferring in and out of the chair. Keeping the brakes on the chair during these transfers ensures that the chair does not roll away from me causing me to lose balance or fall. Read my blog about wheelchair transfers Here.

Food Is Fuel

Diet! Diet! Diet! I have said it many times before, but high quality, unprocessed, organic foods and drinks greatly improve my body’s vitality, immunity and healing capabilities. Living with a spinal cord injury means weight management takes the front seat as it plays key roles in independence, body mechanics and overall health. Since living a sedentary lifestyle, our bodies do not process food as it once did, and we must be aware of everything that we take in. I know of many friends who have gained too much weight which changes even the wheelchair they use.

Check Your Skin

As we all know from our early days in the hospital, living with a spinal cord injury means our skin comes first! It must be maintained with hyper vigilance to avoid breakdown, infection, or further injury.

Due to my high level injury, I have reduced sensation which makes me susceptible to unintentional self inflicted injury. I once placed a heating pad on my leg, fell asleep and awoke to a large, sizzling burn. Had I paid closer attention to the temperature and duration of the heating pad, I could have prevented a lot of pain and suffering.

Additionally, pressure ulcers can develop on most all bony landmarks of the body if left unchecked and unrelieved. I suggest staying mindfully aware of pressure, and duration of pressure on the Coccyx (tailbone), hips, heals, ankles, elbows, shoulder blades and back of the head. Perform a pressure relief and/or have someone adjust your position every hour, or less, to avoid a devastating pressure sore. Here is a blog about Skin Care.

There are three places on my wheelchair I am most concerned with: the seat cushion, height and padding on the back rest, and the frame on the bottom which holds my legs in. I have two cushions which I rotate often to give my body a change. I have extra padding on my lowered back rest so that when I do adjust, I have the cushion to push against and not bruise my arms. As for the lower part of the frame of my chair, I make sure that it is narrow in the width, but not so close that my leg would fall to rest on it and cause a pressure point. Wheelchair Cushion Blog here!

Control the Controllables – Temperature

 The importance of keeping yourself cool in the summer heat and warm when the temperatures dip is imperative in avoiding autonomic dysreflexia (AD).

I struggle tremendously with temperature control which, if not closely regulated, can cause me great pain and dangerous suffering. Ask your doctor about the risks and complications of AD. Here is more info about Autonomic Dysreflexia.

The bottom line: know your body, and know your equipment. Personally, I like to think ahead, plan accordingly and mindfully move through life.

All my best, Happy New Year!

~Aaron

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