Conditions & Rehabilitation

Spinal Cord Injury

Damage to any part of the spinal cord often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury. Rehabilitation can often include physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

About spinal cord injuries

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

A spinal cord injury damages the spinal cord itself. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may lose function or mobility in different parts of your body. Treatment can include surgery, medication, and physiotherapy. Medical devices such as orthoses can be used to support your body and improve function.

What is a spinal cord injury?

The spinal cord sends messages between the brain and the rest of the body for movement and sensation. Layers of tissue and a column of vertebrae surround and protect the spinal cord. An injury to the spine is likely to cause fractures and compression of the vertebrae, which then damages the spinal cord. Prognosis is variable between complete recovery and complete paralysis depending on the level and severity.

Types of spinal cord injury

What are the types of spinal cord injuries?

Complete spinal cord injuries

A complete spinal cord injury is the most serious and causes paralysis or loss of function below the level of the injury and affects both sides of the body. For example, injuries to the lumbar spine can lead to paralysis below the waist (paraplegia). Complete injuries in the cervical spine often leads to a loss of motor function in the lower and upper body (quadriplegia).

Incomplete spinal cord injuries

After an incomplete spinal cord injury only part of the spinal cord is damaged, this commonly results from compression or damage to the spinal cord which reduces the brains ability to send signals below the injury site. This various drastically from person to person. Some sensory and motor functions may be compromised.

Treatment for spinal cord injuries

How is a Spinal Cord Injury Treated?

Unfortunately, there's no way to reverse the damage to the spinal cord, however researchers are continuously working on new treatments. SCI treatment focuses on preventing further injury and empowering people with a SCI to return to an active life.


Improved, lighter weight wheelchairs will allow you to be more mobile and comfortable. The level and type of SCI will determine the type of wheelchair suitable for you, and if additional accessories are necessary. For example, a high-level spinal cord injury may mean you are not able to fully control your arms, and may require special controls. Whereas, thoracic or lumbar spinal cord injuries may mean you have partial to full control of your upper limbs and should be able to operate a manual wheelchair. However, with a thoracic spinal cord injury you may have little trunk control and will possibly need to use a custom moulded seat for support.

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