Spinal cord injury: The road to recovery

The journey to recovery after a spinal cord injury (SCI) is long and often unpredictable. The process requires strength both physically and mentally, determination, and resilience.

Every year, 2,500 people sustain a spinal cord injury through injury or illness. The recovery process after a spinal cord injury varies for each individual.

A SCI has a life-long effect on the body both physically and psychologically. There are no set steps or concrete milestones when recovering from a SCI.

Mental health

If you have survived a SCI the range of emotions you feel can be overwhelming. Whether you are thankful for surviving or experience rage and depression, it can be difficult to come to terms with the injury and its effects.

It is important to talk about how you are feeling, your concerns and address your queries. Psychological strength is just as important as physical strength during recovery.

Specialised support is available for people who have experienced a SCI. The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) provides telephone counselling, advice, an advocacy service, and the option to speak with a peer who has been through a similar experience.

Medical care

The first days after your injury will be the most hectic. Depending on the nature of your injury and how it has affected you, you might undergo surgery or undergo other treatments.

Many of the treatments will be an effort to reduce swelling around the injury, and to check if you have any movement or function below the injury.

The amount of time you spend in hospital, or in another medical facility, will be specific to you and your injury.


After the hospital has stabilised your injury you will be prepared for release. When you are discharged from the hospital your caregivers will work with you to construct a plan for managing your symptoms and continuing with your recovery.

This will usually take into account ongoing physical therapy, any benefits you are eligible to receive, and if you need any home adaptations or equipment to continue living independently.


If you or a loved one has sustained a SCI, there is support available to help you continue living your life. 

Help and advice is available from Aspire, the Spinal Injuries Association (call: 0800 980 0501 or chat online), and Back Up (call: 020 8875 1805)

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