Section: Articles by Clinicians

What to Expect in SCI Rehabilitation

06/03/2019
What to Expect in SCI Rehabilitation

As you navigate the path to recovery and independence after a spinal cord injury (SCI), eventually you will ask, “What can I do to get better?” Inpatient rehabilitation may be your best option for exploring new ways to move and adjust to the physical, psychological, and emotional challenges that come with SCI.

Rest assured that you will have the help of an entire multidisciplinary team led by a physical rehabilitation and medicine doctor (physiatrist) and composed of nurses, case managers, physical therapists, and occupational therapists all dedicated to your recovery. They will help you decipher medical terms like “neurological level,” “autonomic dysreflexia,” and “motor return.” And they will develop a comprehensive plan to maximize your function and recovery potential and help you set realistic and obtainable goals to progress you toward your long-term objectives.

So what can you expect next? Action!

Plan to work hard in physical and occupational therapy to optimize your body function, conditioning, strength, balance, functional mobility, and activities of daily living. Don’t be surprised if your occupational therapist arrives first thing in the morning to go over your plan for the day. Your therapy team will teach you the necessary techniques and self-care skills to increase your independence—tools you will use long after inpatient rehabilitation is over.

Your physical therapist will probably be a fanatic about getting you moving, whether with a wheelchair or on your own two legs. Your team will guide you through the selection of any specialized medical equipment you need, such as a custom wheelchair evaluation by an assistive technology professional. They will also let you know if home modifications will be needed, such as a ramp or widened doorway to ensure equipment fits in your home.

Many individuals with SCI assume their injury means the end of their sexual identity. Don’t. Your doctors and therapists will talk to you about what you can expect for sexual activity and fertility. Around this time, nurses will also work with you to understand the medical bowel and bladder changes that often accompany SCI.

The goal of your inpatient rehabilitation experience is to give you the proper tools and training to get you home safely, confidently, and as independently as possible while educating you on the prevention of secondary complications like pressure sores, pneumonia, and blood pressure issues.

But the work does not end there. Upon discharge, you will be directed to professionals who will help you navigate “life after inpatient” and help you set new goals to achieve your highest potential. Depending on your healthcare provider, you may be admitted to a short-term residential rehabilitation program that will further fine-tune your daily living skills. Outpatient services like adaptive driving, aquatic therapy, electrical stimulation, and robotic evaluations are often available to make your transition back home even smoother, as are SCI community support groups.

So remember, while every SCI rehabilitation experience is unique, each shares the same vision: overcoming disability and giving you the opportunity to enjoy your life.

To learn more about Casa Colina's signature program in spinal cord injury, please call 909/596-7733, ext. 3900.