typical spinal cord injury recovery timeline

A spinal cord injury is a serious event that requires immediate medical treatment and ongoing rehabilitation that can last from weeks to years. Fortunately, in many cases these injuries result in a full recovery, especially when treated early.

When you sustain an incomplete spinal cord injury, the recovery timeline significantly depends on the extent of the damage. Even whiplash can vary from mild to severe with a broad range of symptoms throughout the spectrum and a similarly wide-ranging recovery timeline.

Typical Timeline for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery

If you sustain a minor spinal cord injury, you can expect the recovery to include the following phases:

  • Immobilization - Immediately after the trauma, it is important to immobilize the spine to assess the extent of the damage and prevent further injury. This phase of treatment and recovery ends when it is determined that the spine has been stabilized and there is no additional risk to the spinal cord. Immobilization might last one day to several weeks depending on the extent of the damage.

  • Inflammation control - In addition to immobilization, one of the first treatment steps for a spinal cord injury is controlling inflammation and swelling. When your body experiences a traumatic injury, its natural response is inflammation to start the healing process. However, too much inflammation can impede your recovery, limit range of motion, and contribute to additional pain. Cold therapy is one of the methods used for inflammation control immediately following a spinal cord injury. This part of the recovery process can last several days to several weeks depending on how long it takes to adequately reduce swelling.

  • Acute rehabilitation - If a spinal cord injury has limited your ability to control movement, acute rehabilitation shortly after the injury is important for regaining motor skills as quickly as possible. This phase typically takes place in the hospital and includes rigorous physical therapy. Again, the length of time required for this phase depends significantly on the extent of the damage sustained during the injury.

  • Long-term rehabilitation - After leaving the hospital, many patients must continue physical therapy to regain strength and achieve a full recovery. Typically done in an outpatient facility, this phase can take weeks, months, or even years for the most intense injuries.


If your doctor recommends cryotherapy for either acute treatment after a spinal cord injury or for ongoing rehabilitation, ask about using Game Ready. With specialized wraps for both the cervical and thoracic spine, Game Ready provides the consistent application of therapeutic cold with targeted compression to reduce pain, swelling, and edema. Contact us today to learn more or look for a provider near you.

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