Spinal Cord Injury

Our approach to caring for spinal cord injury includes a comprehensive assessment, evaluation of imaging studies and a specialized care plan for each patient.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is an injury to the spinal cord which results in a either a temporary or permanent change in the cord’s normal function. In some cases, spinal cord injury can be permanent and can often lead to the development of a variety of neurological deficits and disabilities.

Together, the spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system (CNS). The spinal cord is responsible for coordinating the body’s movement and sensation. An injured spinal cord loses the ability to send and receive messages from the brain to the body’s sensory and motor systems.

Many think that a spinal cord must be severed in order for the loss of function to occur, but actually in most people who have sustained a SCI, the spinal cord is intact and just bruised.

Spinal shock is the first symptom of spinal cord injury, which can cause a loss of feeling and movement below the site of the injury. Spinal shock can last from a few hours to a few weeks, so it may take a while to reveal the true extent of the injury.

There are about 12,000 new spinal cord injury cases per year, according to a 2013 report by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).

  • Common Causes:
    • The primary causes of spinal cord injuries are motor vehicle accidents (44%), violence (24%), falls (22%), and sports (8%).*
  • Symptoms:
    • Muscle stiffness or weakness
    • Problems with balance and coordination
    • Muscle spasms
    • Overactive reflexes
    • Feeling faint or sweaty
    • Numbness
    • Shortness of breath
  • Treatments:
    • Injections
    • Surgery
    • Physical Therapy


*Columbia University Medical Center Website