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Rehabilitation after Spinal Cord Injury

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Rehabilitation after spinal cord injury (SCI) focuses on the patient learning how to live life when faced with physical, occupational, and emotional challenges. After SCI, everything can change, and you can face many issues including mobility, regular exercise and maintaining a level of fitness, communication challenges, and activities of daily living. Rehabilitation may be accomplished at a hospital, outpatient clinic, home, or a combination.

Accredited rehabilitation centers provide SCI patients with a team of professionals and many resources. Some of the professionals include:

  • Occupational Therapist: a professional who addresses the social, emotional, and functional aspects of life after an SCI. Their goal is to help you be independent. An OT evaluates your functional ability on many levels, such as at home, work, and play.
  • Physiatrist: a medical doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
  • Physical Therapist: a specialist who helps restore function, improve mobility, and limit permanent physical disability. Physical therapists promotes fitness and health.
  • Rehabilitation Nurse: a nurse specialist who helps to prevent complications and assists patients to be functional. These nursing professionals are a resource for patient advocacy, case management, counseling, and education. As patient advocates, they help you gain access to quality medical care and communicate with health care providers to coordinate services.
  • Speech and Language Pathologist: a therapist who assesses, diagnoses, and treats disorders related to speech, language, and cognition. This may include voice, swallowing, and fluency.
  • Therapeutic Recreational Specialist: a specialist who helps patients with physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Using activities such as arts and crafts, games, music, and outings, therapists help with depression and stress. Activities help build confidence and socialization skills.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Therapist: working with your doctor, therapy is directed toward work-related skills. After evaluating interests, skill sets, and current abilities, the therapist assists in developing a return to work plan.
  • Rehab Psychologist: offers patient and family support to help everyone adjust to change. Patients and their partners may receive sexual and/or family planning counseling.
Updated on: 11/09/12
Edward C. Benzel, MD
This article was reviewed by Edward C. Benzel, MD.
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