Expert Explanation: Spinal Cord Injuries in Children – Causes, Management Measures, and the Benefits of Physiotherapy

Coping with spinal cord injuries can pose significant challenges for children and greatly affect their lives. Here’s how physiotherapy can assist in managing the situation.

Spinal Cord Injuries In Children: Expert Explains Causes, Management Measures, And Benefits Of Physiotherapy
Spinal Cord Injuries In Children: Expert Explains Causes, Management Measures, And Benefits Of Physiotherapy

Certainly, spinal cord injuries (SCI) can have a profound and lasting impact on an individual’s life. These injuries occur when the spinal cord, a long, thin bundle of nerves that runs from the brain down the back, is damaged. They can result from various factors such as car accidents, falls, or sports injuries. According to the Global Spine Journal, 1-10% of children under nine years old suffer from SCI in India. We interviewed Dr. Harmanjeet Shah, Singh Senior Consultant in Pediatrics Orthopedics at Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, who explained SCI, its causes, prevention, and the benefits of physiotherapy in children.

Spinal Cord Injuries In Children: Expert Explains Causes, Management Measures, And Benefits Of Physiotherapy

“The spinal cord, often described as the main pillar of the body, serves numerous critical functions in the human body as a bundle of nerves,” stated Dr. Shah.

He continued, “It acts as a vital conduit for transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body. It processes essential information through sensory neurons and relays these signals to the brain, allowing for sensations such as touch, pain, temperature, and proprioception, which is the awareness of body position and movement.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incidence rates of SCI vary globally, with higher rates reported in low- and middle-income countries. This discrepancy can be attributed to factors like road traffic accidents, inadequate infrastructure, falls, and violence.

The Impact of Spinal Cord Injuries on Individuals

The most frequent causes of SCI include traffic accidents and falls from heights, among others. These injuries disrupt spinal cord functions at the distal level and result in severe disability for affected individuals.

The Impact of Spinal Cord Injuries on Individuals

The impact of SCI on a person’s life is profound, but when it occurs in a child, it becomes a matter of concern for the entire family, as the child’s future is put in jeopardy. “It impairs the child’s ability to perform simple daily tasks such as walking, reaching, and grasping, as well as involuntary movements like reflexes,” emphasized Dr. Shah.

Management of Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Dr. Shah outlined the management measures for dealing with SCI as follows:

1. Acute medical care
2. Surgery (if necessary)
3. Rehabilitation therapies
4. Assistive devices
5. Long-term support to maximize functional abilities and quality of life

Additionally, early detection and initiation of physiotherapy are considered crucial components for the rehabilitation and management of spinal cord disorders.

Benefits of Physiotherapy in Managing Spinal Cord Injuries

Benefits of Physiotherapy in Managing Spinal Cord Injuries

Physiotherapy has emerged as a valuable component in the rehabilitation process for children with spinal cord injuries. Advancements in SCI physiotherapy techniques have led to significant improvements in physical function and overall well-being for affected children. Dr. Shah outlined some of these benefits as follows

Restoring Mobility

The primary goal of physiotherapy in children with spinal cord injuries is to alleviate instability. Physiotherapists assist children in strengthening muscles, enhancing movement, and regaining functional abilities such as sitting, standing, and walking through customized exercise programs.

Preventing Secondary Complications

“Secondary complications, such as muscle atrophy, pressure ulcers, and respiratory issues, often arise from SCI. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role by effectively implementing strategies,” Dr. Shah elaborated. This includes enhancing positioning, maintaining skin integrity, and improving respiratory function, thus preventing further complications.

Increasing Respiratory Function

Due to spinal cord injury, the chest muscles weaken and lung capacity decreases, negatively impacting respiratory function. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in increasing lung capacity through chest and respiratory exercises, thereby aiding affected children in improving stamina, energy levels, and overall health.

Promote Neurological Recovery

Physiotherapy interventions play a vital role in stimulating neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize and establish new neural connections. By employing repetitive movements, exercises, and sensory stimulation, physiotherapy encourages the brain to adapt and rewire neural pathways. This facilitates the recovery of lost function or the development of compensatory strategies.

Improve Quality Of Life

Beyond addressing physical aspects, physiotherapy plays a crucial role in fostering resilience, promoting self-efficacy, and aiding individuals in navigating the emotional and social dimensions of their recovery journey.

Tips for Preventing Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Dr. Shah highlighted several tips for parents to help prevent spinal cord injuries (SCI) in children, including:

Tips for Preventing Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)

Supervision and Safety

  • Ensuring Constant Supervision and Implementing Safety Measures in Elevated Areas:
    Parents should always closely supervise small children in elevated locations such as rooftops, stairs, mountains, and large swings.

    Proper Use of Protective Measures During Car Travel:
    Parents should utilize adjustable and protective seat belts appropriate for their children’s height while driving a car.


Parents should educate their children about being mindful when engaging in risky activities and emphasize safety by adhering to essential rules and instructions, particularly when climbing, playing on playgrounds, or participating in sports.


Encouraging Vitamin D-Rich Foods and Maintaining a Healthy Weight:
Children should consume foods rich in Vitamin D such as eggs, mushrooms, milk, and fruits, as Vitamin D aids in maintaining strong bones. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight contributes to preventing spinal cord injuries.


Dr. Shah concluded, “For children with SCI, physiotherapy has proven to be a cornerstone in the multidisciplinary approach that works to rehabilitate children from SCI. By embracing innovation, evidence-based practice, and a patient-centered approach, physiotherapists remain instrumental in empowering individuals with spinal cord disorders to lead fulfilling, meaningful lives despite the challenges they face.”