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Spinal cord injury

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What is a spinal cord injury?

A spinal cord injury refers to any damage to the spinal cord, which is the collection of nerves that run in a tube-like band through the centre of your spine. These nerves send messages from your brain to the rest of your body, telling your muscles when to move, as well as sending a message from the rest of your body to your brain, such as when you are feeling pain or cold.

Spinal cord injuries can be categorised into: 

  • Complete – the brain can no longer send any messages below the level of injury. This leads to a full loss of function at the level of injury (including paralysis and loss of feeling on both sides).
  • Incomplete – the brain can still send some signals below the level of injury. This means there is still some movement or feeling on one or both sides below the level of injury. An incomplete spinal cord injury can be very mild or extremely severe, depending on the damage. 
Physiotherapy for spinal cord injury on the Sunshine Coast


Some causes of spinal cord injury


Motor Vehicle Accidents

Diving Accidents

Violence (for example, gunshot wounds)



Disc degeneration (rare)

Sports or work injuries

Symptoms of spinal cord injury

The impact of a spinal cord injury will depend on the level of the injury, and if it is complete or incomplete. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Depending on what level is damaged and if it is complete or incomplete, some of the issues you may face when living with a spinal cord injury:

  • Changes in sexual function
  • Unable to feel temperature
  • Difficulty clearing phlegm 
  • Risk of pressure sores
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Unable to feel touch
  • Unable to feel pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve pain
  • Paralysis
  • Spasms
Physiotherapy for spinal cord injury on the Sunshine Coast

Spinal cord injuries can be complex and impact different people in different ways.

Some people with a spinal cord injury walk with walking aids or braces but may choose to use a wheelchair for longer distances.  Other people with a spinal cord injury may use a wheelchair all the time, either one that they push or a powered wheelchair, or both. Each person is different, with many different influencing factors.

How we can help

Treatment for spinal cord injury

Spinal cord injuries are usually permanent. Management of spinal cord injury is life-long, and it is recommended to have a multi-disciplinary approach to help you be as independent as possible. Your team of health professionals may include a specialist medical team, your GP, Neurological Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist and psychologist. Working with a team of professionals will help you get the best results.


Physiotherapy will be individualised to your needs and based on your abilities and goals. Depending on what stage of the journey you are at, our skilled therapists can help maximise your physical activity, develop an exercise program tailored to your needs, teach you how to move more efficiently, review your equipment needs, and/or monitor any changing needs. Aquatic physiotherapy is often a popular choice for people with a spinal cord injury, and we can assist you with setting up a program. 

Link: SCIRE Project

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