Print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Treating spinal injuries

The treatment of a spinal cord injury depends on what kind of injury you have and what level (position) it is in your spine. The treatment is generally in 3 stages.

Emergency treatment to prevent further injury

This involves keeping still and not allowing any movement of the spine.

Braces or surgery may be needed to keep the injured part from moving.


This is different for each person and depends on the injury. It usually involves a multi-disciplinary team. This may include a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech-language therapist, psychologist or counsellor and dietitian. Sometimes it involves help with breathing techniques.

You may also need help with the process of grieving for your previous lifestyle and adjusting to the new one.

Rehabilitation can take a long time. It is aimed at helping you regain communication skills, movement and strength. It is also aimed at helping you regain work and recreational skills.

Some people need to use aids for communication such as computers. Some people need mobility aids such as wheelchairs.

Long-term care

This is aimed at preventing and managing any complications that the injury can cause. Complications can occur any time after your injury, even years later and can include:

Your general practice team will be able to help with these issues.

Self-care for a spinal injury

Depending on the type and level of spinal injury, you may have lifelong challenges. You will need time to adjust to what may be a very different lifestyle.

The multi-disciplinary team in hospital will make sure you and your whānau (family) are well educated about your injury and what to expect before you go home.

There are links to more resources at the bottom of this page.

Some of the things you can do to help look after yourself are:

Getting help with a spinal injury

Your general practice team will help you with most problems or refer you to someone who can. It is important to discuss anything that concerns you with them.

The New Zealand spinal trust provides peer and vocational support and information services to people with spinal cord injuries and their whānau. This is both while they are inpatients and when they are back at home.

ACC will help if you have had an injury and need help with equipment or changes to your house. Arrangements should be made before you leave hospital.

If your spinal injury is not the result of an accident covered by ACC, your hospital occupational therapist and social worker will work with you. They will help you with funding options and what equipment you will be able to receive at home. If you are living in the community with a spinal injury, you can access this information through your general practice team.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created December 2023.


Page reference: 1288651

Review key: HILBP-103167