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Spinal Cord Injury

Siskin Hospital's Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program

Damage to the spinal cord results in a loss of mobility or feeling, depending on the location and severity of the injury. 

The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that carries nerve impulses between the brain and the body. The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system.

Protected within the vertebrae of the back, the spinal cord is about 18 inches long and runs from the base of the brain to somewhere around the waist. Injuries are named by their location on the spine and generally are more severe the higher on the spine they occur.

The first eight vertebrae in the neck are called the cervical vertebrae and are labeled in descending order from C-1 through C-8. Damage to the cervical spinal cord usually result in loss of function to the arms and legs, resulting in quadriplegia.

The 12 vertebrae in the chest are called the thoracic vertebra and, again, are labeled in descending order from T-1 through T-12. Damage to the thoracic vertebrae usually affect the chest and legs and result in paraplegia. 

The vertebrae in the lower back are the lumbar vertebrae (L-1 through L-5) and the vertebrae running from the pelvis to the end of the spinal column are the sacral vertebrae (S-1 through S-5). Damage to the lumbar or sacral vertebrae generally result in some loss of functioning in the hips and legs.

There are two types of spinal cord injuries; complete and incomplete. Complete injuries affect both sides of the body and result in loss of function below the site of the injury, while incomplete injuries result in partial functioning below the primary site of the injury.

Read about one SCI patient who's discovered life after disability: Because of Siskin Hospital, I can hug my grandkids.

Treatment Team

Each patient is evaluated by a spinal cord injury team operating under the leadership of a physiatrist. Together with the family, professionals in the fields of rehabilitation nursing, speech-language pathology, clinical nutrition, psychology, vocational counseling, case management, respiratory care, as well as physical and occupational Therapies work with the patient to achieve the best outcome possible.   

One of the most important members of the treatment team is the family. The family is provided with training, professional support, education, and counseling and works with the patient's treatment team to provide information about the patient's personality, lifestyle, and hopes.

Learn more about Siskin Hospital's Medical Treatment Team.


The goals of the program are specific to each patient and injury, but overall are aimed at restoring, enhancing, and supporting the patient's maximum level of independence. Through Inpatient, SubAcute, Outpatient, and Vocational Rehabilitation programs, Siskin Hospital offers comprehensive rehabilitation at every level of treatment, from initial therapy to returning the patient to the community, school, or work.

Many spinal cord injury patients can benefit from the continuum of care offered by Siskin Hospital's Center for NeuroRecovery. This program provides a continuity of care through Inpatient, Outpatient, and NeuroWellness programs.

Read about one young patient's road to recovery: Because of Siskin Hospital, I can be queen.

Learn more about Siskin Hospital's Center for NeuroRecovery.

Components of Care

Spinal cord injuries are as unique as the patients in our program. Initially, patients focus on relearning the skills necessary to live and function with their injury. 

Because most spinal cord injuries result in changes in respiration and elimination, our team will work for appropriate intervention strategies and educate the patient on management and care of these issues. Our treatment team will also educate patients on the broader concept of sexuality and its embodiment of the patient's whole sexual being and reproduction.

Depending on the patient's progress, therapists help the patient re-learn daily living skills to live as independently as possible. The individualized treatment plan is adjusted according to the patient's lifestyle and personal goals. Daily living goals may include nutrition, dressing, skin and personal care, mobility, communication, problem solving, vision, perception, leisure activities, driving, and returning to work or school. In a supervised environment, patients are able to practice independent living skills in our therapy areas, including a kitchen, bathroom, living, and bedroom setting. 

The treatment team also identifies adaptive devices that are needed for mobility. To return to community living, patients participate in planned outings, using their newly-acquired adaptive equipment to confront obstacles in the community and learn strategies to overcome these barriers.

For some, successful return to work or school will only require minimal adjustment, but others may require assistance with finding a new career direction. The entire team, including the family, conducts evaluation and planning for the patient's vocational and educational needs. 

Learn more about Siskin Hospital's Vocational Services.


For more information, please call 423.634.1200 or email