Spinal Cord Program

Click the image to download a PDF of the Spinal Cord Unit Statistics.

Springfield Memorial Hospital’s inpatient spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation program is an interdisciplinary treatment program for people recovering from an SCI. To address the many life changes brought about by SCI, we've designed an intensive treatment program focusing on you and your family. Our goal is to help you reach the highest level of independent function and return you to a fulfilling and productive life.

We specialize in treatment of traumatic and non-traumatic spinal cord dysfunction, as well as treatment of patients with paralysis due to illnesses such as Guillian Barre syndrome, transverse myelitis and multiple sclerosis. Recovery time after an SCI depends on the specific type of injury sustained. The physician and therapists will help you understand the diagnosis and prognosis for recovery, maximizing this potential while you’re in the hospital.

Recovery continues for many months. To meet these needs, Memorial provides outpatient rehab services and works with home health agencies to make home therapy service available. We coordinate with other facilities that may be closer to home and with appropriate state agencies to help you and your family receive the services you need.

About our program

Significant physical, emotional and sometimes cognitive changes happen in the weeks following an SCI. When you are ready, we will help you regain the ability to do all the tasks necessary for daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, feeding, using the bathroom mobility (including wheelchair skills and walking). If you have equipment needs at time of discharge, occupational and physical therapists communicate these needs to the spinal cord injury social worker who will assist in obtaining this equipment.

Our program meets each patient’s needs, and includes 3 to 5 hours of therapy each day. Activities may include home evaluations, community outings, peer support groups, bi-weekly educational classes and peer mentors.

Regaining control over one's life is a central point in the rehab. With this focus, once you have been prepared to go home, you are given the responsibility for these activities. For example, you may have to complete flexibility exercises or dress yourself independently.

We use the most up-to-date technology and incorporate the latest advances in spinal cord research to deliver the most effective care. We have a partial body weight support system, lite gait, electrical stimulation including Bioness L-300 and H200, standing frames, specialty wheelchairs, and the Proprioceptor 4000, as a few examples.

Bioness Integrated Therapeutic System (BITS) – BITS is a software-based therapy platform designed to challenge, assess and track, vision, cognitive, motor and balance deficiencies. BITS was developed with feedback from therapists and can be customized for patients of all functional and mobility levels across the continuum of care.

Restorative Therapies Integrated Functional Electrical Stimulation Arm and Leg Bike (RT – iFES) - Restorative Therapies' systems combine therapeutic modalities to create complex integrated functional electrical stimulation (iFES). iFES incorporates functional electrical stimulation (FES) integrated with task specific or motor assistance/resistance activities to optimize therapeutic goals. This proprietary software provides real-time biofeedback, data tracking and sophisticated control algorithms that are designed for a wide range of neurological impairments.

Family members are encouraged to participate in the rehabilitation process. The SCI Rehabilitation program provides support, education, training and resource referrals when appropriate. If you still require assistance at time of discharge, we coordinate family training with you and your support system to ensure proper training is complete. Staff members also teach family members how to help throughout your progress and transition to home.

Spinal Cord FAQ

How long will I be on the rehab unit?

The average length of stay is just under two weeks. For persons with paraplegia, the average stay is two weeks. For persons with tetra or quadriplegia, the average stay is closer to four weeks. This time frame may seem short, but it is similar to national averages. We have also found that going home as soon as possible while continuing therapy – either at home or as an outpatient – has many physical and psychological benefits. Our system of care encompasses all of these treatment areas and will continue to be a resource for as long as you need our services.

Will I be able to take care of myself to live independently again?

It will depend upon your specific type of injury and other factors, such as your previous fitness level, age and available support systems. Persons with paraplegia and full use of their arms will generally be able to fully care for themselves and live independently at time of discharge from rehabilitation. Persons with tetra or quadriplegia may need some help for daily living tasks but are expected to be fully independent.

Continued recovery will occur for many months following discharge from the acute rehabilitation phase, during which home health and outpatient services will provide further progress toward the goal of caring for yourself. Our staff will also connect you to community resources such as the Center for Independent Living, Illinois Assistive Technology Program and the Department of Rehabilitation Services to ensure you have access to all available community programs to enhance and promote independence.

Will I walk again?

Physicians and therapists are often asked this question. According to the American Spinal Injury Association, recovery does have predictable patterns based on diagnoses or severity of injury to the spinal cord. We use this association's guidelines to help guide our practice; however, each person can expect to recover in unique ways. There is never an absolute answer to this question. Recovery has been reported to continue for up to several years after the initial injury, and with ongoing research, new possibilities for recovery are emerging. With this in mind, our team will incorporate partial body weight supported walking, standing frames, long leg braces and electrical stimulation in order to promote walking as soon as possible for persons medically appropriate for these activities.

Will I be able to go back to work?

Returning to previous life roles is a key goal of rehabilitation. Our team of experts will work with you and your employer to allow return to your previous form of work if at all possible. If after all avenues have been explored, and return to previous job is not possible, we will connect you with Vocational Rehabilitation, a program through the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) from the State of Illinois that specializes in getting people with disabilities back to work.

Will I be able to have sex or have children with this injury?

During rehab, we will talk with you in a private setting about both sexuality and fertility issues. You can ask questions and talk about your personal concerns. Regarding fertility, there are many medical treatments and advances that can help people with a spinal cord injury in family planning. Information and referrals to specialty fertility clinics can be arranged. For more information, call 217-788-3302 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.