What is the immediate treatment for a spinal cord injury?

You may need emergency surgery for a spinal cord injury if there’s trauma to another area of the body. Surgery can also address spinal cord damage from broken bones, blood clots or damaged tissue.

Some research suggests that a corticosteroid injection may help spinal cord injuries. The medication should be given within eight hours after the injury occurs. This treatment may:

  • Improve blood flow.
  • Preserve nerve function.
  • Reduce inflammation.

What is the long-term treatment for a spinal cord injury?

Long-term goals of spinal cord injury treatment include:

  • Enhancing independence and quality of life.
  • Reducing the risk of chronic (ongoing) health conditions.
  • Restoring some nerve function in partial injuries.

Long-term complications of a spinal cord injury may include:

  • Inability to regulate blood pressure or body temperature.
  • Increased risk of heart or lung problems.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Paralysis in the arms or legs.
  • Persistent pain.
  • Spasticity, joint contracture.
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Will I need rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury?

Most people with a spinal cord injury will need some form of physical rehabilitation, or therapy. You may need inpatient (during a hospital stay) or outpatient (after a hospital stay) rehabilitation. A rehabilitation team can help you:

  • Learn to use assistive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs.
  • Regain strength and mobility in areas of the body with nerve function.
  • Recover the skills needed for activities of daily living (ADL), including dressing and using the toilet.

What are neural prostheses and how can they help a spinal cord injury?

Neural prostheses (artificial body parts) are a potential new treatment for spinal cord injuries. A neural prosthesis replaces lost nerve function like how an arm or leg prosthesis replaces a lost limb. An electrical device connects to nerves that are still functioning. You use those nerves to control the prosthesis, which helps you move immobile parts of your body.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/01/2020.


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