Avoiding Injury: How to Mindfully Move with a Spinal Cord Injury

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
06/19/18  1:41 PM PST
wheelchair transfers

I often speak about the term mindful movement, and how I apply that perspective to my life with a spinal cord injury. I have come to understand that I must be vigilant and diligent with how I move and treat my body to prevent additional injury. Avoiding injury is a goal of mine, as adding more injuries would most certainly compound the difficulty I already live with.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while living an active, healthy lifestyle.

Law Of Leverage

I must consider how to use the laws of leverage to make functional activities happen safely and without injuring myself. I think about how and where I place my hands and feet when standing or transferring to and from a car, bed, wheelchair or broad surface. 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. You can find a helpful video about transferring in and out of a small car and an SUV from my friend Christine.

And don’t forget, leverage is important even when in the relative safety of a wheelchair. I ran into this issue recently when trying to board a bus during a trip to Dallas for our Mobility in the City series.

Skin Check

When living with a spinal cord injury, our precious skin must be maintained with hyper vigilance to avoid, breakdown, infection, or injury.

I have reduced sensation, therefore I am susceptible to unintentional self inflicted injury.

For example: I placed a heating pad on my leg and fell asleep. I awoke to a large, sizzling burn that blistered, burst, became infected and was the cause of a lot of preventable pain, had I paid closer attention to the temperature and duration of the heating pad. This could be solved with a heating pad that has an automatic-shutoff timer.

Additionally, pressure injuries can develop on most all boney 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 injury. You can read more about how I take care of my skin here, or about the importance of the right wheelchair cushion here.

Temperature Control

In my article about thermoregulation (which you can read here) I talk about the importance of keeping yourself cool in the summer heat, and warm when the temperatures dip.

I struggle tremendously with temperature control which, if not closely regulated, can cause me great pain and dangerous suffering.

Quality In

I’ve said it many times before but, high quality, unprocessed, organic food and drink may greatly improved your bodies vitality, immunity and healing capabilities. I have written more than one article on this topic: you can find my article about anti-inflammatory foods here and my article about participating in a juice cleanse here.


My racing background trained me to be very aware of the machines I use to enhance my performance. Meaning, 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 suffered a spinal cord injury due to a mechanical failure of my motorcycle.

Also, ensure the proper fit and use of adaptive devices such as kitchen tools like forks, knives, heat protection and assisted grabbers. Misuse of these items may result in injury. You can find some great products that will help to stay safe in the kitchen in my cooking article.

The right medical supplies are also important in preventing self injury. Select products that fit your anatomy, and compliment your chemistry. Sometimes, allergic reactions can occur due to plastics, rubbers or chemicals in ointments – it’s even possible for an individual to suddenly become allergic to a product they’ve been using safely for years.

Know your body, and know your equipment.

My best defense against injury, is a strong offense. I think ahead, plan accordingly and mindfully move through life.



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