SCI Rehabilitation, West Palm Beach

What is a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)?

A spinal cord injury (SCI) usually occurs from a sudden traumatic blow to the spine that fractures or dislocates  vertebrae. Damage occurs at the moment of the injury when displaced bone & ligaments bruise or tear into spinal cord tissue. Most injuries to the spinal cord do not completely sever it. Some injuries result in complete recovery while others may result in complete paralysis.

Fast emergency care, early immobilization, and aggressive rehabilitation are the most important factors in achieving recovery from spinal cord injuries.

The most common cause of spinal cord injury is trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents or gunshot wounds. Spinal cord injuries can also be caused by compression of the cord by a tumor, infection, or inflammation.


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South Florida Rehab For Spinal Cord Trauma

The spinal cord is an elongated bundle of nerves extending from the brainstem to the lumbar area of the back. It is the part of the body which allows for walking and responding to reflexes by carrying signals from the brain throughout the body’s nervous system.

Spinal cord injuries are caused by a hard blow to the area, such as might occur from falling off a horse, tripping down a flight of stairs, falling off a trampoline or being involved in a car accident. The trauma received during the event causes damage to the nervous system below the site of injury, resulting in partial or complete paralysis. Spinal cord injuries range from relatively minor to severe. In some cases, individuals may experience permanent quadriplegia.

This means that they are unable to move any part of their body from the neck down. Trauma which occurs at a lower point in the spinal cord results in paraplegia, meaning that the legs are paralyzed but the arms and hands can typically move normally. In some instances, patients can suffer from spinal or neurogenic shock, which means that their motor skills are temporarily suspended.

​Victims of spinal shock usually regain movement in the affected area within forty-eight hours. Neurogenic shock can last considerably longer, up to weeks at a time, which often results in muscle atrophy and weakness.

​Proper management of a spinal cord injury calls for immediate immobilization of the body immediately after the trauma occurs. First responders on the scene will restrict the victim’s movement by utilizing a neck brace and back board, as movement can cause tiny fragments of bone to cause farther damage to the spinal cord. This is why civilians are so strongly advised to wait for medical help to arrive rather than attempting to move an accident victim on their own.

Spinal cord injuries do not only result in physical trauma. Those who suddenly find themselves unable to walk or move their arms can suffer a from a massive amount of psychological trauma as well, as the loss of independence can lead to severe depression and anxiety.

Victims of a spinal cord injury often find that they require at least some degree of assistance in regards to personal care and going about their day to day lives. Having to rely upon others for things such as transportation, maintaining proper hygiene or even feeding oneself can cause feelings of despair which can result in suicidal tendencies in the most severe cases.  

One of the most beneficial treatments for a spinal cord injury is patient participation in an individualized physical therapy program. Physical therapists often begin working with their patients in the early stages of recovery, first assessing their individual needs and then designing an individualized treatment plan that works to improve mobility, strength and re-gain independence.


The South Florida Physical Therapists take an all-encompassing approach to rehabilitation following a spinal cord injury. Emphasis is placed on maximizing independence and helping the patient achieve the highest quality of life possible.

The wheelchair accessible gym is available for client use, providing those with a limited range of mobility with the opportunity to maintain and strengthen the muscles which they are still able to use. Physical therapists work with clients on a one on one basis, helping them learn to utilize adaptive aids such as prosthetics whenever it is appropriate.

Each client is encouraged to be an active participant in their own care, working with their physical therapist to create a treatment plan which allows them to achieve their goals while providing an emotionally supportive environment during the rehabilitation process.


Treatment of after a spinal cord injury requires an interdisciplinary approach, a client may be under the care of the following:

  • Emergency Room and Hospital Physicians at onset
  • Primary Care Physician
  • Neurologist
  • Nursing
  • Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapists
  • Social Workers and Case Managers
  • Other specialists, such as an ophthalmologist or chiropractors


Effects of SCI depend on location and whether the injury is complete or incomplete. An incomplete injury means that clients have some function below the level of injury while a complete injury has no function.

  • Cervical (Neck) Injuries can lead to muscle weakness in the arms, legs, and core. Symptoms may occur on one side or both sides of the body. A higher neck injury leads to paralysis of breathing muscles.
  • Thoracic (Chest) Injuries can lead to muscle weakness in the core and legs. Chest level injuries also lead to issues with blood pressure and normal body temperature
  • Lumbar (Lower Back) Injuries lead to muscle weakness in one or both legs, as well as muscles that control bowel & bladder function.


Complications may occur with a lack of early intervention or prevention measures (through medical means or via therapy). Some may include the following:
  • Joint Contractures, where a joint does not fully bend or straighten
  • Dislocation of the hips or shoulders
  • Osteoporosis, or thinning of the bone
  • Fractures related to falls and/or osteoporosis
  • Autonomic Hyperreflexia (blood pressure changes)
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Pressure Ulcers
  • Loss of Bladder & Bowel Control
  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots)

Helping SCI Patients Recover


Although spinal cord injuries are usually from accidents that can happen to anyone, certain factors may lead to a higher risk of sustaining a spinal cord injury:
  • Being Male
  • Being between the ages of 16 and 30, or older than 65
  • Engagement in risky behavior
  • Presence of a bone or joint disorder (such as arthritis or osteoporosis)