As one of the country's largest and most respected acute rehabilitation hospitals, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital has helped hundreds of individuals with spinal cord injuries and disorders make incredible strides in their lives. Our team of physicians—physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapists, nurses, registered dietitians and more —provide innovative care in both the inpatient and outpatient setting.

Spinal rehab: Our approach

Because every patient with a spinal cord injury or disorder is different, we provide a range of spinal rehab options based on medical status and lifestyle needs. Our spine rehabilitation inpatients come to us with extremely severe injuries but leave with remarkable recoveries. This progress is not only due to our protocol of three hours of intensive therapy for five out of seven days a week to prevent the complications of prolonged bed rest, but also our creative approach to developing those therapies around what motivates each patient most.

For example, since restoring balance is a critical skill to relearn, we’ve utilized the unique demands of a kayak in our warm-water pool to develop core strength and right-to-left stability. As skills improve, the therapies increase in complexity.

By building on even the smallest movement, we begin to improve self-reliance and overall health and wellness. Our therapists provide patients with exercises for improved breathing, strength, flexibility and movement, and teach new strategies for performing activities of daily living, intended to optimize patients’ returns to their communities. Typically, patients require an inpatient stay of about three weeks, although length of time can vary greatly from person to person.

Patient profile

Our patients with spinal cord injury range in age from 16–95; we accept patients under 18 years old after careful review. The average age is 59. Patients are admitted to our inpatient and outpatient programs for diagnosis including:

  • A motor vehicle or other accident
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spinal tumor
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Medical/surgical complications
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome or other degenerative spinal conditions

Following their inpatient stay at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, the vast majority of these patients go on to outpatient therapy or home-based therapies to continue their rehabilitation. We also offer patients a lifetime follow-up program to provide ongoing assessment by a physician, nurse and therapist as needed. And our approach works—92 percent of inpatients reach their goals upon discharge and 83 percent of outpatients meet theirs.

Inpatient rehab

To maximize independence during the inpatient stay, our spinal cord disorders unit is specially equipped with helpful amenities like easy-access specialty beds, mechanical equipment and assistive devices. Specially trained neurological physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, care managers and psychologists collaborate on a cross-practice work plan to establish and accomplish realistic goals. Our devoted inpatient care for spinal cord patients includes:

  • 24-hour care from physicians and nurses specially trained in rehabilitation
  • A specialized therapy gym that facilitates close team communication
  • Observation room for patients with behavioral difficulties that helps to develop their independence with close staff supervision
  • The Lokomat body suspension mobility rehabilitator, to help patients begin walking again
  • Smart Balance Master® interactive balance training system
  • An Independent Living Unit that allows patients to learn functional activities using real furniture and appliances and has an environmental control unit

With their therapists, patients work to build strength, conditioning, range of motion, balance and coordination. Daily therapy sessions target postural training, sitting or standing tolerance, wheelchair skills, gait training and transfer training. Other treatments such as hot packs, ultrasound or electrical stimulation may be used to relieve discomfort. Psychologists provide support and counseling to promote family relationships and adjustment. Throughout every patient’s stay, the care team meets to review progress, identify barriers to independence and create solutions tailored to that patient, working toward the goal of maximum independence.

Patients with a spinal cord injury or disorder have access to the following rehabilitation services:

At the end of a rehab stay, a discharge summary is sent by the patient’s rehabilitation physician to the patient’s primary care doctor to ensure a complete continuum of care.

View our inpatient outcome report

Inpatient spinal cord disorders support group

This support group is open to individuals on the inpatient units who have experienced a spinal cord injury or who have a spinal cord disorder. The group is led by a Psychologist with a focus on adjustment issues.

The group meets every Wednesday from 11:30 am–12:00 pm in the Main Patient Dining Room. For further information call the psychology department at 484.596.5430.

Outpatient rehab

Many individuals need ongoing support after inpatient rehab. At the Neuro Center at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, patients can participate in an outpatient spinal cord rehab program that offers a variety of rehab services with a full or half day option. Support groups and vocational rehabilitation are also available, so patients can return to their communities with as much independence as possible.

Therapies and rehabilitation services available through the Neurologic Day Program include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Psychology
  • Recreational therapy
  • Cognitive retraining
  • Nutrition management
  • Adolescent program
  • Spinal cord support group
  • Assistive technology
  • Aquatic therapy
  • Driver rehab

We provide outpatient rehab for patients with spinal cord injury and disorders at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital (Malvern).

View our outpatient outcome report

Outpatient spinal cord disorders support group

This support group offers the opportunity for individuals who have experienced a spinal cord injury or who have a spinal cord disorder to get together and discuss physical changes and social issues that they face daily. Topics such as relationships, nutrition, fitness and driving are discussed as well as occasional guest speakers and group outings.

The outpatient spinal cord disorders support group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month from 4:30–6:00 pm in the Independent Living Unit. For more information, call 484.596.5560 or email scisupportgroup@mlhs.org.

Family involvement

For the best results possible, we allow and encourage family members to actively participate in the rehabilitation process. This can be a great support for the patient, as well as an ideal chance for family to get the education and training they need for life after Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. Family members can participate in daily therapy sessions and spend time with their loved one in the Independent Living Units which allow patients to learn functional activities necessary for their transition home. If needed, family members can request a family meeting with the care team. Additionally, we offer on-site family accommodations for those traveling from great distances.

For admission to Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital for acute inpatient rehabilitation, call 484.596.6000. To schedule an outpatient appointment for physical, occupational and speech therapy, call 484.596.5000.