Spinal Cord Injuries

Centre of Excellence


A spinal cord injury — damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal (cauda equina) — often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) treatment and rehabilitation focuses on intensively working with patients holistically, so that in a short period of time patients can maximize their neurological recovery and reach their highest functional level.  Our team of therapists want patients to return home as independent and productive as possible in preparation to resume activities of daily living. Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, but there are ways to manage the aftercare and long-term care. There is an array of treatment that can be undertaken to manage spinal cord injuries, be it conservative, surgical procedures, medication or immobilisation. During the initial stages of rehabilitation, therapists usually emphasize maintenance and strengthening of existing muscle function, redeveloping fine motor skills, and learning adaptive techniques to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Patients will be educated on the effects of a spinal cord injury and how to prevent complications, and will be given advice on rebuilding their patient’s life and increasing their quality of life and independence.

All you need to know?

The ability for a spinal cord injured patient to control their limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on two factors: the location of the injury along the spinal cord and the severity of injury to the spinal cord.

The severity of the injury is often called “the completeness” and is classified as either of the following:

  • Complete. If all feeling (sensory) and all ability to control movement (motor function) are lost below the spinal cord injury, the injury is called complete.
  • Incomplete. If you have some motor or sensory function below the affected area, the injury is called incomplete. There are varying degrees of incomplete injury.

Additionally, paralysis from a spinal cord injury may be referred to as:

  • Quadriplegia. This means that the arms, hands, trunk, legs and pelvic organs are all affected by the spinal cord injury.
  • Paraplegia. This paralysis affects all or part of the trunk, legs and pelvic organ
  • Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Falls. A spinal cord injury after age 65 is most often caused by a fall.
  • Acts of violence.
  • Sports and recreation injuries.
  • Alcohol.
  • Diseases. Cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis and inflammation of the spinal cord also can cause spinal cord injuries.
  • Patients will be taught many new skills, and they will learn to use equipment and technologies that can help patients live on their own and be as independent as possible. Patients will be encouraged to resume their favourite hobbies, participate in social and fitness activities, and return to school or the workplace.
  • Modern wheelchairs. Improved, lighter weight wheelchairs are making people with spinal cord injuries more mobile and more comfortable. For some, an electric wheelchair may be needed. Some wheelchairs can even climb stairs, travel over rough terrain, and elevate a seated passenger to eye level to reach high places without help.
  • Computer adaptations. For someone who has limited hand function, computers can be very powerful tools, but they’re difficult to operate. Computer adaptations range from simple to complex, such as key guards or voice recognition.
  • Electronic aids to daily living. Essentially any device that uses electricity can be controlled with an electronic aid to daily living. Devices can be turned on or off by switch or voice-controlled and computer-based remotes.
  • Electrical stimulation devices. These sophisticated devices use electrical stimulation to produce actions. They’re often called functional electrical stimulation systems, and they use electrical stimulators to control arm and leg muscles to allow people with spinal cord injuries to stand, walk, reach and grip.
  • Spinal cord injury 8-12 weeks
  • Degenerative condition 2-4 weeks

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