Each year, more than 10,000 people may experience injuries to their spinal cords. The spinal cord is an incredibly important part of the body, consisting of an elongated clump of nerves that are responsible for sending messages back and forth to the body from the brain. In almost all cases, spinal cord injury rehabilitation is required following injuries to this part of the body. Although common in athletes, a back injury that affects the spinal cord can also be caused from car accidents, violent trauma such as stabbing or gunshot wounds, falls, birth defects and dangerous physical activity. There are two different types of injuries to the spinal cord, those that are complete and those that are incomplete. Complete injuries refer to those that eliminate function from the site of the injury and below, while incomplete injuries can allow for little, some or most movement and function below the site of the injury. The first challenge in choosing a location for spinal cord injury rehabilitation is to ensure that the one you are considering specializes in the functional type of injury that you have.
But, aside from the level of function remaining following an SCI, it’s important to note that there are varying levels of injury that not all spinal cord injury rehabilitation facilities can handle. For instance, one may not be equipped to manage a C6 level injury, where assisted transfers from a wheelchair are required. Conversely, far less serious injuries such as an L1 where walking short distances is possible, may be easily treated at a cutting edge athletic facility, such as at a sports injury clinic Toronto or other major city offers. Doing research on the actual capabilities of a spinal cord injury rehabilitation is important before choosing a clinic for care. Further research into whether or not a considered location actually handles other patients with a similar diagnosis and how many of those types of patients they see in any given year is also valuable information to have.
Personal preference is also important in choosing a facility for long term rehabilitative care. Distance can be an important determining factor, especially if travel is limited due to depending on others. Additionally, how frequently care is required is also important to think about, especially if long distances are required. If frequent chronic pain management is a necessity, proximity to home may be a very important deciding factor.
Facility information is worth considering if the luxury is afforded. While not all areas offer multiple choices in spinal cord injury rehabilitation, areas that are closer to larger metropolitan areas may. In these cases, practices within the facility can be evaluated on criteria such as how many staff members there are per patient, what accreditations the facility has and the general or average ages of other patients to the clinic.
Available treatment options are worth looking into before deciding on a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center. Some will offer the most advanced and cutting edge treatments available, while others may instead offer limited rehabilitative care and instead focus more on chronic lower back pain, upper back pain and associated symptoms. Additionally, since the needs of people with an SCI are very diverse, considering a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center that also offers emotional, vocational and transitional rehabilitation in addition to acute and subacute care is also worthwhile if the need is present.
Some types of spinal cord injury rehabilitation centers also offer alternative types of treatment. In particular, whole body cryotherapy is becoming increasingly popular in individuals who have suffered from some types of injuries to the spinal cord. This type of cryotherapy involves a chamber, called a cryosauna, that exposes the entire body except the head to liquid nitrogen gases that supercool the exterior skin rapidly. The benefits of cryotherapy used in this way are purportedly multifaceted, and it’s thought that the process stimulates the immune system and damage repair processes while prompting chemical releases throughout the body that promote healthy energy and feelings of well being. The technology has been used for decades for various types of physical discomfort associated with injury, illness and athletic exertion, and has become increasingly popular amongst athletes. Since the cost of cryotherapy has dropped dramatically in recent years due to an increase in availability, it’s becoming much more widely used for everything from upper back pain relief to rheumatoid arthritis, its initial indication. Not all spinal cord injury rehabilitation centers will offer newer or alternative therapies like cryotherapy, but some people with an SCI may find benefit from the treatment if available.
The most important things to remember when choosing a facility to help with the management of an SCI is to find one that specializes in the specific type of injury and level of severity particular to you and select one with the most experience in that particular type of injury. From there, identifying additional support needs like vocational and transitional assistance are also important. Depending on the number of available centers near you, further selection in a spinal cord injury rehabilitation center can be made based on factors like proximity and convenience, additional treatments offered and education and counseling programs available.