Tag Archives: spinal injury rehab

7 Myths About Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

Families coping with a spinal cord injury have so many factors to consider, from immediate medical support to long-term care and financial planning. In the final installment of our series, Amy Bratta gives us 7 common misconceptions about spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

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Myth 1: Cost isn’t a factor after a spinal cord injury.


In most cases, injured individuals will need wheelchairs, lift systems, ramps and bathroom equipment before continuing to recover at home – and those are just the basics. Access to these resources is significantly impacted by insurance and a patient’s individual financial circumstances.


Myth 2: Young adults find it easier to deal with spinal cord injuries.


When it comes to spinal cord injuries, every individual is unique. Rehabilitation depends on social support, how the injury happened and a host of other variables. Age is not necessarily the leading factor that differentiates one patient’s experience following a spinal cord injury from another’s.

At Magee, we try to meet young adults where they are in terms of coping with their injury. We hold adolescent or young adult support groups. We’ve developed a young adult suite with tutoring, computer access, gaming, large-screen TVs and other comforts that provides a space where recovering young adults can spend their time. Specialty age-related counselors and coordinators are on staff to help adolescents return to school and work, or to pursue educational opportunities once back in the community or online.


Myth 3: Spinal cord injury rehabilitation ends once you leave the hospital.


When a person is admitted to inpatient rehabilitation, he or she is evaluated by a team of clinicians. Together, the person and team set goals and a plan to reach the goals. These goals stretch well beyond the initial inpatient hospitalization. We help patients and families create a therapy plan for what they can do now, with the movement they have, but we also help them to develop a long-term plan of care for when they leave the inpatient rehab environment. The end of inpatient therapy is not the end of spinal cord injury recovery! People can continue to participate in therapy at home or in outpatient depending on the circumstances.


Myth 4: Spinal cord injuries stay the same throughout an individual’s lifetime.


As an individual with a SCI ages, he or she will face new and different challenges or complications. In addition to the normal effects of aging that we all face, SCI-related complications may present themselves years after the injury itself. You may gain weight, increase or decrease your level of strength, or experience changes in your skin’s strength. Sometimes, these factors can be managed or minimized with foresight. But in other cases, internal developments may be out of your control. That’s why it’s essential to have a knowledgeable and dependable team to supervise your long-term health and rehabilitation.


Myth 5: Families can’t do much to support spinal cord injury rehabilitation.


Social support is a critical component. Our multidisciplinary team members are part of that support system. We encourage families to be actively involved in their loved one’s inpatient hospital stay as soon and as often as they can, as they will play a critical role in supporting the next phases of rehabilitation once their loved one is back in the community and out of the hospital.


Myth 6: Physical therapists can easily predict how each patient will progress.


I wish we had a crystal ball and could predict the future. We try to help patients understand what we see as their current potential and what we know might be possible based on the level of their injury. There is always room for hope. With spinal cord injuries, it’s never black and white. We tell patients, this is what we can see and anticipate right now. If those circumstances change, it’s time to reevaluate.


Myth 7: A positive attitude has little influence on how patients deal with rehabilitation.


A positive attitude makes a significant difference in helping someone to achieve the highest level of independence possible. This may sometimes mean a full recovery of physical function; other times it may mean using technology and equipment to lead an active and independent lifestyle. Mental toughness and motivation are keys to success in both of these scenarios.


Our myth buster is Amy Bratta, the spinal cord injury Therapy Manager at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia.

An Inside Look At Spinal Cord Injury Physical Therapy

About 12,500 people will experience a spinal cord injury this year. How will physical therapy impact their lives? Amy Bratta, the spinal cord injury therapy manager at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, answers our questions about SCI rehabilitation.

Amy Bratta Magee spinal cord injury physical therapy sci rehabilitation philly philadelphia


What sort of social support is provided to individuals who pursue inpatient physical therapy?

Here at Magee Rehabilitation, we collaborate on a multidisciplinary team that includes clinical neuropsychologists and an extensive peer support program for patients and families with individual and group options.


What technologies are available to promote independence for people with spinal cord injuries?

We try to give people opportunities to try equipment that will enable them to be more independent in their homes and communities. We have an amazing “Smartroom” that shows some of this new technology. Identifying the best technology tools to promote independence depends on understanding an individual’s mobility level and the funding that he or she has access to in order to continue using the tools at home.

HelpHOPELive: We’ll be taking a closer look at some of these cutting-edge modalities in a future Blog post. Stay tuned!


Which spinal cord injury support initiatives are you most excited about?

We’ve started a pilot SCI “medical home” program for injured individuals. There are similar models for people with chronic diseases, but very few available for people with spinal cord injuries. It’s an attempt to follow people closely after they leave inpatient rehabilitation and transition back to the community. The medical home multidisciplinary team provides proactive support and services to minimize medical complications and promote optimal health after a spinal cord injury.

Spinal cord injury therapy is a fast-moving space in which professionals try to seek answers and tailor technological developments to individual needs. Stem cell research and other medical developments continue to give people hope that in the future we will have more answers than we have now.

Amy Bratta treadmill physical therapy sci spinal cord injury PT Magee Rehabilitation Philly Philadelphia


What is essential to success as a spinal cord injury physical therapist?

Collaboration is essential. We work closely on a multidisciplinary team to provide well-informed and complete support. We typically look for new team members who are self-motivated, willing to learn and invested in teamwork. There is a physical component to our work, but it is also very emotional. Working with individuals and their families after a traumatic injury can be an intense and rewarding experience.


What have you learned from the injured individuals you’ve worked with?

With each person that I’ve worked with, what stands out to me is the strength of the human spirit. A person going through trauma can and will deal with the outcome and move forward to the best of his or her ability. That applies to social and emotional transitioning as well as physical rehabilitation. Sometimes I truly feel that I’ve learned more from some of our patients than they have learned from me!

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When Penn State quarterback Adam Taliaferro was injured in 2000, he had surgery, followed by 7 months of in- and outpatient services at Magee. What was it like working with Adam?

Adam is an extraordinary young man who came in with very little active movement initially. He was always very present, highly motivated, mentally tough and positive, and he carried that attitude not only into his own care and therapy but into the lives of others who were struggling with similar injuries. That’s the beauty of being here: people going through similar experiences can be there for each other. Adam is an exceptional example of giving back while pursuing personal rehabilitation.


What’s your favorite part of your job?

I like that my job is very dynamic. Every day is a little bit different. You have to adapt, even if you think you have a plan! I meet some incredible people. You walk in the door and see what other people are dealing with, and suddenly your problems or issues seem completely insignificant by comparison.

My work inspires me and gives me perspective. I appreciate the opportunity to serve people who have been through trauma and injury. Every day when I come to work, I feel like I still have a role in helping people to receive the best care they possibly can. It can be a very emotional job – but for us, working in this field means entering a very special place where we can make a significant and lasting impact on an individual’s life.

Amy Bratta spinal cord injury sci physical therapy rehabilitation Magee Philadelphia


We appreciate your time, Amy! Visit the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital website to learn more about Amy Bratta’s work.