Rehabilitation After a Spinal Cord injury
What is rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury?
Your spinal cord runs from your brain down through your spine. Your brain sends messages out to your body through your spinal cord. These messages help you move your body parts, like when you pick up a cup or walk to the mailbox. As you go about daily tasks, messages travel from your arms, legs, and the rest of your body back to your brain through your spinal cord.
A spinal cord injury can prevent
your brain and body from communicating normally. If you've had a spinal cord injury, you
may need surgery or other treatments to fix the injury. After, you may need to spend
time in a rehabilitation facility, or "rehab," as part of your recovery.
Why might I need rehab for a spinal cord injury?
The rehab process may help you regain some functions that the injury took away. You may need to learn things such as how to control your body, take care of yourself, and use a wheelchair. The tasks you'll work on in rehab depend on the type of injury that occurred.
After a spinal injury, you may be
at risk for complications. Rehab may help prevent them. Possible complications are:
Breathing problems and pneumonia
A drop in blood pressure when you move around
Muscle weakness and muscle spasm
A hard time moving joints
Bowel and bladder problems
Reproductive and sexual function problems
What are the risks of rehab for spinal cord injury?
During rehab, your therapists will
help you do different exercises and help you move around. As a result, another injury
could happen during rehab. But your therapist will take extra care to prevent any more
injury. You may also develop sore muscles from your exercises and activities.
There may be other risks, depending
on your specific health problem. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare
provider before rehab.
There is also the risk that parts of your rehab might not be able to overcome or help with some of the effects of your injury.
How do I get ready for rehab for spinal cord injury?
Your healthcare providers will
determine when you will start a rehab program.
Rehab specialists may start working
with you while you're still in the hospital. A rehab team often has a variety of
specialists, depending on your needs. Your rehab program will probably be led by a
physiatrist (also called a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician). This is a
healthcare provider who specializes in rehab. Other members on your team may be:
What happens during rehab for a spinal cord injury?
Your rehab providers will discuss the results you may expect to see over the short-term and long-term. These results will depend on your type of injury and how much strength you have below the level of the injury.
While in rehab, your providers may
help you with tasks, such as:
Moving around. Depending on your
injury, you may be able to walk with braces. Or you may require a wheelchair. You
will learn to use these mobility devices.
Dealing with complications. If your
injury caused many changes in the way your body works, your rehab providers will
teach you how to prevent and treat complications. You may need a specialist to treat
complications if your bowel and bladder function is not normal.
Doing things in a different way. Your
providers may teach you how to get in and out of a car, roll over in bed, bathe, and
do other daily activities that allow you to be more independent.
Individual therapists may work with
you on specific tasks, including daily living activities like eating and dressing
yourself, as well as job-related skills.
What happens after rehab for a spinal cord injury?
Your rehab specialists may help assess your home to see if it is safe and accessible for you. For instance, he or she will help you determine whether you will be able to easily use your wheelchair in your home or if you’ll need to make safety improvements to your bathroom. You may need special devices and equipment around your home after rehab.
Tell your power company and emergency services providers about your injury in case of an emergency. Your rehab team will also assist you in arranging help from family, friends, or care providers to help you with your day-to-day needs.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how will you get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
Online Medical Reviewer:
Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
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