Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): Managing Medications

Treatment for SCI often includes medications. These help relieve symptoms. They also help improve your health. To work their best, medications must be taken as directed. Doing this while juggling everything else you need to focus on may be difficult, but it’s important. When medications aren’t taken properly, they may not help you. And they can even harm your health. To protect yourself, learn all you can about your medications and how to use them safely.

Young man taking pills at home.

Changes in your body

Your body goes through many changes after an SCI. This includes how your body absorbs medications. If you used a medication, herb, or vitamin before your injury, it may work differently now. And you may be at higher risk for side effects and interactions between drugs than before. So be sure all of your healthcare providers know about all the medications you take. This includes things you buy over the counter. And it includes herbs, vitamins, and other supplements. This will help keep you safe and healthy.  

Tips for managing medications

Your doctor or other healthcare team members can help you create a medication plan. Follow this plan to ensure the best and safest use of your medications. In addition:

  • Know what you’re taking and how to use it. Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist before taking anything new. Know what the medication is for. Ask about side effects. Also ask if there are precautions you need to take when using it. These include taking the medication with food or on an empty stomach and avoiding taking it with other medications.

  • Don’t stop taking a medication without talking with your doctor. If you think a medication isn’t helping or that you no longer need it, talk to your doctor or nurse first. Stopping medications suddenly can cause problems. And your doctor needs to know what medications you are or are not taking.

  • Report problems. Tell your doctor if you have any concerning side effects or symptoms after taking a medication. He or she may change the dosage or type of medication you’re using.

  • Get the best form for you. Medications come in many forms, not just pills. If you have trouble swallowing, for instance, some medications can be given as liquids or drops. If you have any problems taking a medication, let your doctor know. Do not crush or break a medication without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first.

  • Keep a current list of your medications. This may be needed in case of emergencies. Include the names, dosage, and times of the day you take each medication. Carry this list with you for any healthcare visits or hospital admissions. Also give a copy to your caregiver and loved ones.

  • Fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This keeps your records in one place. This also makes it easier to check for potential drug interactions.

  • Consider using a pillbox to help you keep track of daily medications. Get one labeled by the day of the week. Fill the box each week for the entire week.

  • Take proper care of your medications.Store your medications as directed. Also, don’t keep old medications around. Dispose of them properly when they expire.


For more information about SCI, go to:

  • The National Spinal Cord Injury Foundation www.spinalcord.org

  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation www.christopherreeve.org

  • Paralyzed Veterans of America www.pva.org


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