Skip to content

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Spinal Cord Injury: Your Rehabilitation Team - Topic Overview

When you are recovering from a spinal cord injury (SCI), it is best to work with a group of health professionals known as a rehabilitation (rehab) team. Your rehab team designs a unique plan for your recovery that will help you recover as much function as possible, prevent complications, and help you live as independently as possible.

  • You and your family are the most important people on the team. The other team members are there to answer your questions and help you.
  • A rehabilitation doctor is in charge of your medical care. This is often a physiatrist (a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehab). Some physiatrists take additional training in spinal cord injuries to become spinal cord injury specialists.
  • A rehabilitation nurse specializes in nursing care for people with disabilities. This nurse provides nursing care, educates you and your family about the medical side of an SCI, and helps the doctor coordinate medical care. He or she will help you but will also expect you to do as much as possible yourself.
  • A physical therapist evaluates and treats problems with movement, balance, and coordination. He or she provides training and exercises to improve mobility, such as using a wheelchair or moving from a wheelchair to other locations. The physical therapist also teaches family members how to help with your exercise, if needed.
  • An occupational therapist helps you with daily tasks, such as eating, bathing, dressing, writing, or cooking. You may have to learn new ways to do these things. He or she will also help you increase the strength of your upper body and arms.
  • A speech-language therapist helps you relearn how to chew and swallow food and relearn language skills and learn other ways to communicate if your spinal cord injury has affected the muscles that control your mouth, throat, and neck. This is not always necessary.
  • A social worker helps you make decisions about rehabilitation and helps you plan your return to home or a new living place. He or she helps you with questions about insurance and other financial issues and can arrange for a variety of support services. Social workers also provide or arrange for counseling to help you deal with any emotional problems.
  • A recreation specialist helps you return to activities that you enjoyed before the SCI. He or she will help you use the skills you are learning in other areas (such as physical or occupational therapy) in your hobbies. Your recreation specialist will help you return to community life by taking you shopping or to the movies, for example.
  • A licensed counselor helps you and your family deal with the emotional effects of your SCI. Counselors use interviews and tests to identify and understand emotional problems. They may treat thinking or memory problems or provide advice to other professionals about your mental state.

Other professionals that may help you during your rehab include a registered dietitian to help you prepare a balanced diet and take care of any special dietary needs, a vocational counselor to help you find a job, and a sexual health specialist to help with intimacy and fertility issues.

Recommended Related to Brain & Nervous System

Angela Lansbury Investigates Lou Gehrig’s Disease

A gun is fired from somewhere off-screen directly at actor Angela Lansbury, who sits calmly, speaking into the camera. As the slow-motion bullet travels straight toward her, she explains this is how amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, attacks your body. “You know what’s coming, but you can’t do anything about it.” Then, after an appeal to the audience to support global research efforts, she stands  and walks boldly off-screen, dodging the bullet just...

Read the Angela Lansbury Investigates Lou Gehrig’s Disease article > >

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Spinal Cord Injury: Your Rehabilitation Team Topics

    Today on WebMD

    nerve damage
    Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
    senior woman with lost expression
    Know the early warning signs.
     
    Close up of eye
    12 culprits that affect your ability to focus.
    medical marijuana plant
    What is it used for?
     
    senior man
    Article
    brain research briefing
    Article
     
    Syringe
    Article
    Vaccine and needle
    VIDEO
     
    mans hands on laptop keyboard
    Article
    brain illustration stroke
    Slideshow
     
    most common stroke symptoms
    Article
    Parkinsons Disease Medications
    Article