What problems could I experience if I begin exercising after a spinal cord injury?

Your doctor may have encouraged you to begin an exercise program as part of your treatment plan for your spinal cord injury. Like many accident victims suffering with the chronic pain and limitations of movement that go along with these injuries, you may find the thought of exercising daunting. You could even be worried—rightfully so—that exercising could result in you feeling more, not less, pain. However, you can take steps to reduce your risk of further injuries.

Watch for These Things As You Begin Your Exercise Program

Accident victims suffering with a spinal cord injury can find exercise improves their muscle strength, breathing, circulation, and self-confidence and can reduce the anxiety and depression they may feel. To enjoy these benefits of exercise, you should be alert for the following:

Skin problems.

As you get on and off exercise equipment, watch for any areas that could cause friction or pressure on your skin if you suffer with skin problems.

Autonomic dysreflexia (AD).

This is a syndrome causing sudden excessive high blood pressure and is a common problem for spinal cord injury victims. When you exercise, be conscious of spikes in your blood pressure so that you do not damage your heart.

Overuse injuries.

You need to be careful not to perform the same exercises all the time that repetitively work the same muscles and could result in further injuries.


Spasticity is a secondary condition you could suffer with that causes your muscles to be constantly contracted. If you have this condition, you need to be careful when using exercise machines and may need someone to watch you while using them to avoid being thrown out of the proper position for the machine.


If you are taking medication that numbs your pain, you need to be extra vigilant to not overdo your exercises and cause further injuries to your spine.

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