Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital

Main Phone Number:

(608) 592-8100

Admissions Coordinator:

(608) 592-8111

Admissions Fax:

(888) 780-3389

5115 N. Biltmore Lane

Madison, Wisconsin 53718

The Spinal Cord Injury Program at UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, provides expertise in medical-functional rehabilitation for individuals who have experienced a traumatic or non-traumatic spinal cord injury. Our interdisciplinary spinal cord team is dedicated to the optimal opportunities for each patient's recovery and function.


What is a spinal cord injury?


A spinal cord injury is damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. These injuries often cause permanent changes in strength, sensation and other body functions below the site of the injury. These injuries often cannot be reversed, but rehabilitation allows many people with a spinal cord injury to lead productive, independent lives.


What is involved in spinal cord injury rehabilitation?


Spinal cord injury rehabilitation involves two essential process:

  • Restoration of functions that can be restored
  • Learning how to do things differently when functions cannot be restored to pre-injury level

Common Functional Problems Treated

  • The inability to walk
  • Weakness or loss of joint movement
  • Difficulty with coordination and balance
  • Difficulty moving from one surface to another (e.g., from the bed to a chair or from a chair to the tub)
  • Difficulty with daily activities such as eating, grooming, dressing, bathing or household chores
  • Emotional problems associated with serious illness or injury
  • The inability to pursue recreational activities

Admission Criteria


The Spinal Cord Injury Program is designed to benefit those:

  • With physical impairments caused by spinal cord injury or by illness that requires multidisciplinary rehabilitative care
  • Who can expect a reasonably good chance for improvement
  • Whose medical condition is stable, who are not ventilator dependent, and who can participate in a complete rehabilitative program within a reasonable period of time after admission
  • Who are able to meet new goals and improve their physical condition

Spinal Cord Injury Treatment


To help each patient achieve his or her goals, a team of physicians and other health care professionals evaluate each patient to determine diagnosis and treatment, and then meet with the patient to plan the rehabilitation program. These medical professionals help the patient and family identify and achieve short- and long-term goals. The patient's family members are encouraged to participate in rehabilitation.




In addition to participating in rehabilitation, patients will be involved in educational sessions about making the transition from the Rehabilitation Hospital to the home and community. An occupational therapist works with a patient on sink-level hygiene. Retraining in activities of daily living is an important part of the recovery process.


Topics include:

  • Understanding the medical, physical and emotional effects of spinal cord injury
  • Environmental control systems
  • Respiratory function
  • Coping with spinal cord injury
  • Sexuality
  • Nutrition
  • Skin care
  • Bowel and/or bladder management
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Community resources
  • Independent living
  • Recreational activities

Peer counseling and support groups are also available.


Spinal Cord Injury Programs and Services


Programs and services provided in the Spinal Cord Injury Program include:

  • A specially-designed area to practice skills in a home-like environment
  • Outpatient therapy or home therapy
  • Referrals for adaptive equipment needs
  • Patient and family education and training
  • Community reintegration focus

Discharge Planning and Follow-Up


To ensure each patient's progress after he or she leaves the medical center, our rehabilitation staff coordinates services such as outpatient therapy, residential treatment or home therapy. We also make referrals to local, state and federal agencies for vocational opportunities, support groups and financial assistance.


Community Resources


UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital has an ongoing relationship with the Madison Spinal Cord Injury group. Our recreational therapist will work with our patients to pair them with a trained peer mentor, if appropriate. Many times, having the ability to connect with a spinal cord injury survivor can benefit our new patients.


News and Events: UW Health Rehabilitation Hospital Employees Volunteer at Spinal Cord Injury Event


Spinal Cord Injury Information


UW Health Orthopedics and Rehabilitation: Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Living with a Spinal Cord Injury

Health Facts for You: About Spinal Cord Injuries

Health Facts for You: After a Spinal Cord Injury - Health and Wellness