Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Treatment, Rehab and Recovery options for patients and their families
Thousands of people in the United States experience paralyzing spinal cord injuries each year. While there is currently no cure for spinal cord injury (SCI), modern rehabilitation programs help SCI victims regain everyday functionality and prevent potentially fatal complications.
The goal of physical therapy for SCI patients is to prevent complications from developing. Through inactivity, people suffering from a spinal cord injury can develop severe skin complications, blood clots, bone deficiencies, spasticity, and a host of other issues.
Physical therapy also gives patients the chance to recover some muscle function. While full recoveries are rare, it is possible for a patient to regain fine motor skills and function by strengthening muscles.
An effective physical therapy regimen is coordinated by an interdisciplinary team of medical experts. This typically includes specialists in pulmonary medicine, rehabilitation, internal medicine, neurology, neuropsychology, nutrition, and psychology. These specialists may work together to help a patient regain function through daily and weekly sessions.
Common practices in physical therapy include:
- Cyrotherapy and Kneading
- High Intensity Electric Stimulation
- Muscle strengthening exercises
- Prophliac Heat
- Sexual Rehabilitation
- Recreational Therapy (i.e. static bicycling, underwater walking)
The ideal rehabilitation program is tailored to the patient’s individual needs. It incorporates the patient’s specific form of paralysis, medicinal history, and practical goals. When choosing a rehabilitation center, seek ones that offer a well-rounded approach to long-term care.
A wide array of devices may help people with paralysis complete basic functions. These devices include everything from communication software to the following:
- Ventilators (portable or bedside) – Aids quadriplegics with impaired respiratory functions.
- Pressure Relief Cushions – Helps combat unhealthy skin pressure that can lead to pressure sores.
- Abdominal Binders and Stockings – Artificially increases abdominal strength, easing upright movement.
- Phrenic Nerve Pacemakers – Assists breathing with more ease than a ventilator.
- FES Systems – A new type of device used to help regulate bowel and bladder function.
- Voice Recognition Software – Provides a medium for people with impaired diaphragms to communicate.
- Mobility – A large number of people with SCI use a wheel chair (electric or manual) to gain mobility. Those with greater muscle function may choose to use arm braces, walkers, canes or crutches.
- Household Items – The amount of assistive devices around the household has increased throughout the years. These items include everything from bathroom accessories to kitchen tools.
- Vehicle Adjustments – Driving is still an option for many people with impaired function in the lower limbs. Through the use of specially designed hand controls, they can effectively accelerate and break.
Feelings of hopelessness and depression are common and perfectly normal after a traumatic SCI injury. Support groups, behavioral therapy, and individual therapy can be invaluable in a person’s recovery.
These professionals play a vital role in maintaining patient’s will to overcome physical challenges and to rely on the help of others. Many rehabilitation programs and community organizations include counseling services.