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Spinal Cord Injury: Finding a Rehab Center

Topic Overview

Rehabilitation (rehab) for a spinal cord injury (SCI) is typically done in a special center. You and your family work with a rehab team, a group of health professionals that designs a unique plan for your recovery. This plan will help you recover as much function as possible, prevent complications, and help you live as independently as possible. The team includes your doctor and a rehab nurse, plus specialists such as physical and occupational therapists.

The rehab center should be able to meet your special needs. Research the center keeping this in mind, and ask questions about its staff, accreditation, equipment, activities, programs, and how it transitions you back into your community.

General questions

  • Does your center treat only those with an SCI, or others as well? If it treats others, are people with an SCI kept in the same or different areas?
  • What can you tell me about the patients in your center? Are they older or younger? Male or female? Do most of them have a specific level of injury? What is it?
  • How many SCIs do you treat in a year?
  • Is your center certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)? Has it been designated as a Model Spinal Cord Injury Center by the National Institute of Disability Research and Rehabilitation (NIDRR)?
  • Does your rehab plan have both short- and long-term goals?
  • Does your center encourage family members of all ages to participate in rehab programs?
  • Are there living arrangements for family members participating in training?
  • Are counseling and other social services available to family members?
  • Could I speak to someone who has gone through your program?

Staffing

  • Does your regular staff have training in SCIs?
  • Do you have trained SCI specialists/therapists? In what areas? (Important areas include physical, occupational, speech-language, and recreational therapies; counseling; and social work.)
  • What kind of and how much experience do your specialists/therapists have?
  • How many people is each specialist/therapist presently caring for?
  • Who is your director and what is his or her background?

Activities and transition into the community

  • How often and for how long each day will I receive specialist treatment? (Treatment should be no less then 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.)
  • How much training will my family and I receive on sexuality, bowel and bladder care, skin care, and essential self-care activities?
  • Do you hold weekend and evening activities?
  • Do you have a facility available where my family and I can practice self-care skills?
  • Do you offer training in the management and hiring of personal care assistants?
  • How will you plan my discharge and transition into the community? Who do you work with in the community?
  • If I don't live in the community where the center is, how will my transition be planned?
  • Will I receive self-care materials when I leave the center?
  • After I leave, will I have a contact person at the center for questions or emergencies?
  • Will someone make recommendations as to how I may need to modify my home?
  • Will you provide a follow-up plan? What will it include?

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Current as of March 12, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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