By Jennifer Pisarek
This is a summary of a paper published by researchers from the Department of Occupational Science and Therapy, ICORD, and the British Columbia Paraplegic Association from Vancouver, Canada in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation. Original article: Hammel et al. (2009). Managing fatigue following spinal cord injury: a qualitative exploration. Disability and Rehabilitation, 31(17), 1437-1445.
Fatigue is a common and tiresome obstacle for individuals with spinal cord injuries. It is much more than just a physical condition; fatigue can have a significant impact on the emotional and mental state as well. Clearly, fatigue has negative implications on quality of life, happiness and general well-being. In the case of patients with SCI, fatigue is a problem that may not resolve over time and may in fact become worse. A fatigue management program can help individuals cope.
This paper investigates the contributors to fatigue following spinal cord injury, as well as identifying the ideal components of a fatigue management program and the factors that determine its success.
What was the most important finding?
Researchers found many ways to address the multidimensional nature of fatigue in SCI. To help with the physical aspect of fatigue, strategies to enhance efficiency and decreased energy expenditure were beneficial. These often included modifying daily activities in keeping with capabilities, incorporating additional rest, ensuring adequate nutritional intake, and increasing the use of assistive equipment. For the emotional and mental component of fatigue, the study found that developing greater understanding and acceptance of capabilities and limitations was helpful, and maintaining participation in meaningful and rewarding activities was equally beneficial.
Successful fatigue management programmes were found to increase the quality of life for people with SCI. The programs helped individuals accomplish their priorities, provided an enhanced sense of control and motivation, reduced pain and helplessness, and enhanced personal relationships strained by fatigue.
What are some things we need to consider?
The investigation used focus groups to produce descriptive data, obtaining results by collectively interviewing groups of individuals. While this type of research is efficient in exploring a relatively unknown field, its findings are not conclusive and cannot be used to make firm generalizations about the population of interest. Therefore, further research is needed to quantify the information discovered in this study, to recommend a final course of action in fatigue management.
What does this mean for people with SCI?
By implementing some of the strategies suggested by this study, people with SCI may be able to manage their fatigue more effectively. Through addressing this issue and helping to improve their health and well-being, individuals will be able to reap many positive benefits such as an increased sense of control and quality of life.