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Physical Therapy

Spinal Cord Injury Information

Spinal Cord Injury Information

Your upper back or middle back is called the thoracic spine and it’s what anchors your rib cage offering stability and protection for your vital organs in the chest. Your thoracic spine begins just under the neck and consists of twelve vertebrae that run down the back of your torso.

When you feel pain in your upper back, it is usually due to one of these two reasons:

  1. Muscle irritation. The large upper back muscles that attach to your shoulder blade and the back of your rib cage are susceptible to producing painful tightness or strains. This can be due to overuse or lack of strength.
  2. Joint dysfunction. Whether from deterioration due to aging or from a sudden injury, the joints in the thoracic spine may develop some dysfunction and pain.

It’s possible that upper back pain can be from an injury that has caused spinal cord damage.

What Are Spinal Cord Injuries

When damage is caused to any area of the spinal cord or nerves which results in a permanent change in sensation, strength and other functions, it is considered a spinal cord injury (SCI). 

Depending on the degree of the injury, SCI can sometimes cause loss of body functions, paralysis of the muscles and even neurological deficits. For people who live with spinal cord injury symptoms, probably the most vital part of their care is in preventing complications from the injury.

Symptoms and Red Flags of a Spinal Cord Injury

If someone has had an accident, some emergency symptoms may include:

  • Tingling, numbness or loss of sensation in feet, toes, hands or fingers
  • Impaired breathing
  • Extreme back pain
  • Pressure in the head, back or neck
  • Difficulty with walking or balance
  • Oddly twisted or positioned back or neck
  • Paralysis, weakness or loss of coordination in any part of the body
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Anytime a person has significant trauma to the neck or head, he or she should be seen by a medical professional for an evaluation for spinal injury. It may be wise to assume there is a SCI until it is proven otherwise.

The most common causes of SCI nationally are:

  • Falls
  • Car Accidents
  • Violent Acts
  • Sports Injuries
  • Diseases
  • Alcohol

Physical Therapy After Spinal Cord Injury

The good news in that our Rocky Point physical therapists are experienced and highly trained in assisting patients in relieving pain, regaining motion and reclaiming their life after a SCI. The areas affected from a thoracic spinal cord injury include the muscles in the upper chest, hands, legs, body trunk, and abdomen. Physical Therapy treatment may include:

  • Working on mobility skills such as transferring, balance, standing and pivoting
  • Building endurance
  • Building strength of trunk, wrist, elbow and shoulder
  • Maximizing sensory and motor function recovery
  • Prevention of secondary health issues or complications
  • Assistance in reintegrating with society

When should you see a physical therapist?   People who have suffered a spinal cord injury can benefit from physical therapy treatment. PT’s are the authoritative experts on how the body moves, heals and functions. We know how the nerves make new connections, what helps muscles get stronger and the science to exercises to help you get better.

Life does not need to end after a spinal cord injury. It doesn’t matter the level of severity or paralysis, our physical therapists can help you improve your balance, standing, sitting, limb strength and movement ability.

1 Comment

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    October 1, 2021 at 12:16 AM

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Comments are closed.


Just wanted you to know how grateful I am for all you did for me in connection with the scar tissue which I developed from my by pass surgery five years ago. When I first came to you the pulling in my chest was effecting my breathing and daily exercising. You were able to (as you described it) remodeled the scar tissue and my condition improved greatly.
Also wanted to thank your staff, Regina, Madison and your daughter for their efforts and kindness. Wishing all of you good health and happiness in the future.

I came to Dr. Stern for severe pain in my right heel. A sonogram showed I had a torn plantar fasciitis. I had trouble walking and shooting pain all day in the heel of my foot. I have been coming to Dr. Stern for physical therapy for about 7 weeks and I am just about 85% there. I have relief from the pain and am able to walk better. Whatever Dr. Stern is doing is working. I will continue my visits until I am 100%. Thank you, Dr. Stern, for helping me feel better. PT has been a plus for me. It has been a pleasure coming to Dr. Stern’s office for everyone is so nice. The staff is professional and helpful.

Nancy N.

I have arthritis in both shoulders but I love to play racquet sports. A few years ago, Dr. Stern helped me with the severe pain in my right shoulder, which had prevented me from playing tennis. Recently, I had begun to experience the same type of pain in my left shoulder. Now that I have had several sessions with Dr. Stern, I no longer have pain in that shoulder; I haven’t taken pain medication in weeks, and I am back to playing tennis.

Allie P.

I came to see Dr. Stern after I fractured my leg at the beach. I had to wear a brace and couldn’t work for almost 3 months. He did electrotherapy on my upper leg and was very considerate as to how much I could handle. He also gave me exercises I could do at home while laying down, which have really helped strengthen my leg. After seeing Dr. Stern for a few weeks I was able to start walking again. He showed me how to use a cane and how to go up and downstairs. Within 3 weeks I was almost able to walk and go up and down stairs normally, with no brace or cane. Walking and especially stairs were hard at first, but it’s gotten much easier. I’ve had a great experience here and appreciate everyone’s hard work and consideration.

Kelli T.
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