Spinal Cord Injury

The spinal cord is the part of the central nervous system responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. When the spinal cord is injured, it can longer send these signals to certain parts of your body. This changes your ability to feel and move, and may also affect other body mechanisms, including bladder and bowel control, breathing, and sexual function. Depending on its degree and nature, a spinal cord injury may result in many different possible levels of impairment. Whatever your level of impairment is, however, you still have the ability to learn new tools for leading a fulfilling lifestyle. At Rusk, the professionals in our Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program will work with you and your family to set realistic, specific goals and provide you with the skills needed to achieve your own optimal independence level.

The Rusk Approach to Spinal Cord Injury

The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine has a long and rich history of providing excellent treatment to patients with spinal cord injury (SCI), and over this time we’ve developed a comprehensive array of highly specialized and innovative clinical and educational programs. From our decades of experience treating SCI cases, our spinal cord rehabilitation team understands how important it is to optimize our patients’ quality of life. Our comprehensive, patient-centered SCI program is designed to help each patient meet their rehabilitation goals through treatment plans tailored to their unique needs and circumstances.

Along with the expertise of our SCI rehabilitation team, Rusk’s close partnership with the professionals at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Tisch Hospital forms the core of our SCI program. Patients with spinal cord injury often can develop medical complications, and our collaboration with the full medical team at Tisch Hospital allows us to provide a quick, coordinated response to any acute medical problems that might occur.

Patient Testimonial

Read the story of a patient who has gone through Rusk's Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program.



Thomas Wopat-Moreau


Expert Physicians in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

The members of each patient’s interdisciplinary SCI rehabilitation team operates the leadership of a physiatrist (rehabilitation physician) from the department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation who is specially trained in the treatment of spinal cord injury. The attending physiatrist performs an initial evaluation, then works with the rehabilitation team, the patient, and his or her family to identify the patient’s unique medical needs and determine treatment goals. Based on these individualized objectives, the physiatrist and rehabilitation team will develop and execute a rehabilitation plan designed to help the patient achieve the best possible functional outcome. Learn more about the physicians in our Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation program:

Specialized Rehabilitation Services

Patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury often require a wide range of specialized treatment services. Rusk’s SCI program offers a variety of specialized equipment and programs, including hydrotherapy, adaptive and assistive equipment designed to facilitate self-care, a barrier-free design program, driver evaluation, and community reintegration, among others. These treatment options are carefully customized to match each patient’s needs and mobility options.

Rusk’s Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Services includes both Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs, Outpatient Rehabilitation Programs, and Community Re-integration - scroll down to read more about each service.

We also encourage individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries to seek out Support Groups during the process of Rehabilitation.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

The CARF-accredited Comprehensive Integrated Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation program at Rusk offers patient-centered, team-focused care to patients during the weeks or months immediately following their injury. Under the leadership of the attending physiatrist, inpatients and their family members work on a daily basis with an extensive, highly-skilled interdisciplinary team. Depending on the needs of the patient, this team may be comprised of professionals from the following departments: Rehabilitation Nursing, Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Psychology, Nutrition, Therapeutic Recreation (recreation therapy, art therapy and music therapy), Horticulture Therapy, and Vocational Rehabilitation.

All members of the spinal cord injury rehabilitation team have specialized training in the medical, nursing or therapeutic care and treatment of patients with SCI. The team applies their expertise to help each patient maximize their physical, functional, social, psychological and medical gains before either returning back to the community or progressing to another level of care.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine also has an extensive offering of outpatient programs for patients undergoing rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries. Rusk’s outpatient services are designed to help clients continue progressing towards their functional goals following the acute treatment and rehabilitation phase. To achieve these individual goals, clients and their therapists work to improve strength and coordination while increasing activity levels and decreasing pain.

Depending on the patient’s needs the following departments may be involved in providing specialized outpatient services for spinal cord injury patients: Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy.

Community Reintegration

Following a spinal cord injury, each patient faces unique challenges. Rusk is dedicated to optimizing our patients’ quality of life by working with them and their families to maximize their ability to lead an independent lifestyle. Through the SCI program’s community re-entry and re-integration process, patients re-learn the skills that will enable them to participate fully in activities at home, work and school, and in recreational settings. In order to maximize patients’ independence and safety in the community, Rusk’s therapists will also assist patients in making appropriate modifications to their home, school, work, and recreational environments. For example, they may recommend assistive devices to facilitate daily living, or suggest adding a ramp in the patient’s home or workplace to improve accessibility.

As part of Rusk’s SCI program, a dedicated Vocational Rehabilitation team offers individualized, patient-centered training programs to assist in the community re-entry/re-integration process. These include: work readiness assessment and training, job placement services, Referral to Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID), diagnostic vocational evaluation, computer skills training, voice recognition software training, internships, job coaching and post-employment follow up, and The Rusk Business Advisory Committee.

Throughout the community re-entry process, our focus is always on what patients can do, not what they can’t. At Rusk, our philosophy is to rebuild lives around abilities rather than disabilities.