About Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
If you have a spinal cord injury, our team of experts can provide highly specialized care starting the moment you are injured and continuing throughout your life. It is not enough for us to see you survive a spinal cord injury. We want to see you thrive and enjoy your life.
The Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute has a long history of helping patients improve their level of function during inpatient and outpatient treatment. We continue to see improvements even years after the initial diagnosis. Our compassionate team will work with you and your family to develop a care plan tailored to your unique needs and rehabilitation goals.
Our team includes physiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech/language pathologists, registered nurses, social workers, nutritionists, wound care specialists, recreational therapists, and neuropsychologists. Our team members, who are often asked to speak at local and national conferences on spinal cord injuries, hold the highest certifications, including board-certified neurologic clinical specialists, assistive technology professionals, and seating and mobility specialists.
Causes and Symptoms
Most spinal cord injuries are caused by traumatic events, with vehicle accidents and falls accounting for more than 70 percent. Other traumatic causes include sports-related injuries and violence, including gunshot wounds. A small percentage of spinal cord injuries are caused by non-traumatic events, including cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis, and spinal tumors.
Spinal cord injuries are divided into two categories – complete or incomplete – based on the amount of damage to the spinal cord. Your rehabilitation team will perform a neurologic assessment that will help determine the type and level of your spinal cord injury. Individuals with incomplete injuries have some preservation of sensation or strength remaining at the muscles controlled by the lowest portion of the spinal cord while individuals with complete injuries do not.
Symptoms of spinal cord injuries often vary, based on the area that was damaged:
- Cervical injuries: These injuries affect the head and neck region. These injuries often result in tetraplegia, creating a lack of feeling or paralysis below the shoulders and neck.
- Thoracic injuries: These injuries affect the upper chest, mid-back, and abdominal muscles, but usually not the arms and hands. Paraplegia may result, creating paralysis in the trunk, legs, and pelvis.
- Lumbar injuries: Damage affects the hips and legs, but usually not the upper body. There is usually some loss of function in the legs and hips.
- Sacral injuries: The rarest of spinal injuries causes damage to the area just above the tailbone, affecting the hips, back of thighs, and pelvic organs. There may be a loss of bladder control and some loss of function in the hips and legs, though walking is often possible.
Diagnosing spinal cord injuries often starts in the emergency room following an accident or violent incident. Orlando Health's experienced emergency medicine team can provide you expert-level care immediately following your injury. A thorough examination will assess your sensory functions and movement, while also seeking more details about what happened. Complaints of neck pain, unexplained sleepiness, signs of weakness, or neurological injury may prompt additional testing, including:
X-rays: These images can reveal spinal problems, including tumors, fractures, or degenerative issues.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: This painless test uses a series of X-rays and a computer to create highly detailed images of your spine. It can reveal bone fractures and disk problems.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Radio waves and powerful magnets are used to create detailed images of your brain. These scans, often with the help of special contrast dyes, can reveal herniated disks, blood clots, and other masses that might compress your spinal cord.
Neurological examination: This physical examination assesses the severity of your injury and is often performed several days later to allow time for swelling to subside. Your doctor will test your sensory functions, muscle movement, strength, and reflexes.
Finding the right spinal injury rehabilitation center is one of the most important decisions you and your family will make after your injury.
The Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute is a leader in providing the care needed to help you regain as much independence as possible following a spinal cord injury. We are accredited by CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities), offering a compassionate team that includes multiple board-certified neurological clinical specialists, assistive technology professionals, and seating and mobility specialists. Our therapists are experts in the field of spinal cord injury rehabilitation. They are often asked to speak at local and national conferences, while also teaching at the University of Central Florida’s physical therapy program.
Our team participates in clinical research, helping to improve the way spinal cord injuries are treated and rehabilitated, and presents their findings at local and national conferences. The Orlando Health team firmly believes in helping improve the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries beyond the rehab clinic. Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute has a strong history of obtaining grant funding for community-based programs. We have been awarded multiple grants from prestigious organizations including The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Craig H. Neilson Foundation, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Our team members have received multiple local and national awards, including:
- APTA Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy’s Spinal Cord Injury Special Interest Group’s Award for Excellence in Spinal Cord Injury Care/Service
- APTA Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy’s Early Career Award
- American Physical Therapy Association’s Outstanding Physical Therapist/Physical Therapy Assistant Team Award
In our intensive rehabilitation program, you will spend at least three hours a day, five days a week, working closely with compassionate therapists who will help you achieve the greatest level of independence possible. During these sessions, you will work with various specialists, including physiatrists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech/language pathologists, and recreational therapists. But our treatment goes far beyond these sessions. Other services include:
- Weekly spinal cord injury education classes to help you and your loved ones learn about your injury and your health needs
- Bi-weekly spinal cord injury support group meetings
- A peer mentoring program to help you learn from others who have experienced a spinal cord injury.
- Community outings
- Home assessments, both virtual and in-person
- Inpatient and outpatient seating clinic
- Our walking recovery program uses high-intensity locomotor training principles for those with incomplete spinal cord injuries.
As your rehabilitation journey continues, you will eventually return to life outside of a full-time rehabilitation facility. When that happens, effective outpatient care is critical to your continued improvement. Orlando Health is committed to ensuring and supporting a smooth transition that helps you meet your personal goals.
Our team will work closely with you to develop a care plan utilizing our highly specialized outpatient centers. Our multidisciplinary team will work with you and your family to design a customized treatment plan with functional and achievable goals. You will work one-on-one with your therapist throughout your journey to build daily living skills to help you achieve the highest level of functional independence.
Outpatient therapy treatments include:
- Seating and positioning evaluation and treatment
- Functional mobility and activities of daily living (ADL) retraining
- Bowel and bladder retraining
- Specialty evaluation in Peristeen, which helps manage bowel dysfunction
- Electrical stimulation
- Robotic exoskeleton therapy
- Gait training
- Standing frame
We also offer and support a range of community programs designed to help you transition and get the most out of life. They include:
- Community wheelchair seating clinic for those living with paralysis
- Community reintegration outings
- Patient reunions
Scope of Service
We provided Scope of Service documents that detail each of our accredited rehabilitation programs. Within these documents, you’ll find very detailed answers to questions, such as:
- How does someone become a patient or get admitted?
- Who is an appropriate candidate for the Spinal Cord Injury Program?
- What type of specialists work at Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute?
- What services are offered for brain injury patients?
- How does Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute help stroke patients recover?
The Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute outperforms the national average when it comes to helping patients return to the community.
Discharged Back to the Community
86.9% of our patients are discharged back to the community (national average is 82.2%)
Specific to Spinal Cord Injury
We discharge 81.6% of our traumatic spinal cord injury patients back to the community, compared with the national average of 77.7 percent
Commitment to Excellence
The Orlando Health Advanced Rehabilitation Institute has earned national recognition for our inpatient rehabilitation program and treatment of brain injuries, strokes and spinal cord injuries.