Physical and Occupational Therapy and Treatment for Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most catastrophic damages a person can suffer. While many neck and back injuries lead to permanent health issues, some victims of spinal cord injuries can recover or at least learn to work around their disabilities with the help of physical and occupational therapy. Unfortunately, though, this ongoing therapy can be costly. However, if someone else caused your spinal cord injury, the party at fault may be obligated to cover your therapy expenses and other losses related to your injury.

The type and intensity of physical and occupational therapy after a spinal cord injury will depend on the severity of your injury. We look at the different types of spinal cord injury and what you can expect from physical and occupational therapy.

What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord plays a vital role as it relays messages between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is protected by layers of tissue and the spine itself, but it’s still vulnerable. When a sudden, traumatic blow strikes the spine, the broken bones can damage the spinal cord and nerves. Although it’s rare, a spinal cord injury can sever the spinal cord, known as a complete injury. We’ll talk more about the different types of spinal cord injury in a moment. Still, it’s crucial to remember that even a partial spinal cord injury can be devastating and severely limit an individual’s life.

In most cases, you can treat spinal cord injuries. Depending on the specific cause and nature of your injury, treatment can include surgery, medication, and physical and occupational therapy.

The Different Types of Spinal Cord Injury and How They Affect the Body

Spinal cord injuries fall into two categories: complete and incomplete (or partial).

A complete spinal cord injury often happens when the spinal cord is split or severed, resulting in paralysis in both sides of the body below the injury. If the spinal cord is severed in the lower back, a person will likely be paralyzed from the waist down (paraplegia). In some cases, a complete injury may paralyze all four limbs (quadriplegia).

The spinal cord nerves send messages to and from the brain to the rest of the body. If these nerves are damaged, it can stop the brain from receiving messages. Depending on which nerves are affected, a spinal cord injury can impact:

  • Bladder and bowel function
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing
  • Metabolism
  • Muscle movement
  • Reflexes.

The most common causes of spinal cord injuries are auto crashes, such as car, motorcycle, or truck accidents, and falls. Although not as common, a spinal cord injury can also be caused by medical malpractice (such as if a surgery goes wrong) or a sports injury.

The most common symptoms relate to the nerve affected. For example, if you lose control of your bladder or bowel, you may have an incomplete injury that’s preventing the brain from receiving messages that you need to go to the toilet. If a spinal cord injury has affected your limbs, you may feel weakness or numbness in the arms and legs.

Treatment for a Spinal Cord Injury

Unfortunately, once the spinal cord is damaged, there’s no way to reverse it. However, many treatments exist to prevent further injury and help individuals manage their condition, be independent, and do hobbies and activities they enjoyed before their injury.

The first treatment comes immediately after sustaining the injury. This is why, if you are hurt in a car accident, at work, or anywhere else, it’s vital to seek medical treatment.

Medical professionals will work to prevent any further injury by immobilizing the neck. They’ll also help you regulate your breathing and prevent you from going into shock. You may be given a corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation and preserve the function of the surrounding nerves, which should be administered within eight hours of the injury.

Surgery for a Spinal Cord Injury

You will likely need surgery after a spinal cord injury to remove bone fragments compressing the spine, repair damaged tissue, and address any blood clots. Surgery can also stabilize the spine and prevent further injury or future deformity.

Physical and Occupational Therapy for a Spinal Cord Injury

Physical and occupational therapy after a spinal cord injury is crucial for helping you regain strength and prevent further damage and degeneration. Both therapies are slightly different, but the most promising results come when they work together.

Physical therapy is focused on helping you to regain strength and mobility, while occupational therapy is geared toward helping you ease back into everyday life. An occupational therapist will help you learn how to use assistive devices, recommend adaptations to the home (and workplace — if you can and wish to return to work) to support you with daily tasks, and help you regain your independence.

The overarching goal of rehabilitation — whether physical or occupational — after a spinal cord injury is to enhance your quality of life, help you be independent, and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions and complications.

In partial spinal cord injuries, it may be possible to restore some nerve function. The largest improvements are often seen within the first six months after your injury, so starting treatment as soon as possible is crucial. However, some people continue to see gradual improvement after years of rehabilitation.

Some of the ways physical and occupational therapy can help after a spinal cord injury are:

  • Helping you redevelop fine motor skills so you can wash and dress, eat and drink, go to the toilet, and use keys, remote controls, and your cell phone.
  • Learning new ways to be independent, such as using voice-activated devices to turn lights and heating on.
  • Helping you get around comfortably, whether using a walker or wheelchair so that you can see friends and family, go shopping, move in and out of vehicles, the bath or shower, and your bed.

What to Do if You’ve Suffered a Spinal Cord Injury

Getting treatment quickly is vital to preserve function and begin to regain strength and independence after your injury. But surgery, medication, emergency room fees, consultations with specialists, hospital stays, and physical and occupational therapy after a spinal cord injury all cost money, and you might be worried about how you can afford it.

You shouldn’t have to choose between making ends meet and getting the treatment that could help you live a fulfilled, independent life. If the accident that caused your injuries wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to file a claim to cover your past and future expenses and compensate you for your pain and suffering, and the overall impact of your injury on your life.

At Patino Law Firm, our dedicated Texas personal injury lawyers help accident victims fight for the financial compensation they deserve from the person or party responsible. We can arrange medical treatment and delay payment until after you win your claim, meaning you don’t have to worry about paying for your treatment upfront. And, because we work on a contingency basis, you’ll never pay legal fees until we win your case.

Sustaining a spinal cord injury can turn your life upside down. The last thing you should be expected to worry about is negotiating with insurance companies and gathering evidence to support your claim. Our spinal cord injury lawyers in McAllen and San Antonio are on your side, and we’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

If you or someone you love has sustained a spinal cord injury because of another person’s careless or reckless actions, you do not have to face the financial burden of your treatment costs and lost wages alone. For a free, no-obligation case review to find out how much compensation you could be entitled to, get in touch by filling in the contact form or calling 855-LAW-NINJA.


Patino Law Firm
1802 N 10th St
McAllen, TX 78501
210-646-9100

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