Dr. Higdon smiling at a patient

What kind of doctors to see for spinal cord injuries

Medical Reviewer: Brian Higdon, MD
Last Updated: April 9, 2024

Spinal cord injuries can be life-altering if the spinal column or nerve damage is too extensive. Spinal cord injury victims usually require specialized medical attention from doctors with specific spine treatment qualifications.

Unlike other treatment options, there isn’t one specific medical practitioner for spine treatment. Instead, there are many different specialists who work individually or collectively to help treat spinal conditions and help patients regain control of their bodies. The type of doctor a patient is referred to must have some specialized understanding of the spinal cord issues they are dealing with.

Our team at Brooks Rehabilitation is made up of clinicians and other medical health professionals who treat spinal injuries. All our therapists are board certified experts who go above and beyond to ensure patients receive the best care possible. At Brooks Rehabilitation, we treat all patients like family.


Neurosurgeons are medical doctors who diagnose and treat conditions that affect the nervous system. These include the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Finding a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal cord injury can help save patient’s lives, ease their pain, and help them function optimally.

Orthopedic surgeons

An orthopedic surgeon is the most preferred medical specialist for patients who have suffered spinal cord fractures and are experiencing weakness, altered sensations, or other abnormalities around the injured level.

Orthopedic spine surgeons specialize in diagnosing and treating spinal fractures caused by degenerative conditions and trauma-related accidents. Their specialization includes determining which spinal bones have been fractured and the severity of the fractures, diagnosing spinal stability, and working with other specialists to find the best treatment plan for each SCI treatment.

SCI treatments vary depending on the patient’s medical history and the severity of the injury. We recommend seeking immediate medical attention from a qualified orthopedic specialist as soon as a spinal cord fracture occurs.

For chronic spinal cord injuries, orthopedic surgeons can help treat secondary conditions like carpal tunnel, joint pain and fractures.


These physicians specialize in physical medicine and patient rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury. Physiatrists address problems such as back pain, shoulder pain, sports injuries, sciatica, work injuries, and chronic pain. They also assist in managing problems with bowel and bladder management, neuropathic pain and spasticity management. A physiatrist is the best medical specialist to help patients with spinal cord injury, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis complications.

The physiatrist may order laboratory work, perform electrodiagnostic or imaging studies, and use this data to determine the best treatments for the patient’s SCI. Treatments may include:

  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Counseling
  • Medication
  • Injection

Physiatrists are trained to diagnose where the problem is coming from after an SCI and guide injections or medications for the SCI.

Physical therapists

These SCI treatment specialists play a critical role in the patient’s recovery from spinal cord injury. Finding the right physical therapist can be life-altering, especially if it gives the patient hope of living their best life.

One common multidisciplinary approach for treating SCI is rehabilitation/recreation therapy. This treatment approach involves using multiple health professionals, from nurses to psychologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. This team of medical professionals typically works under the advisement of a qualified physical therapist.

The patient’s recovery can occur in the hospital, at a rehabilitation center, or at an SCI-focused specialized facility for round-the-clock monitoring. A great physical therapist should tailor each patient’s rehabilitative treatment based on their goals, injury level, and severity. These may include critical factors like having complete vs. incomplete spinal cord injury or a lumbar SCI vs. cervical SCI.

Spinal cord injury rehabilitation at Brooks

Currently, there is no cure for spinal cord injury. But there are many promising technological advancements in spinal cord injury treatment. Our highly trained and specialized medical team helps oversee each patient’s progress.

The system of care and comprehensive community programs at Brooks Rehabilitation make us the best choice for SCI patients requiring rehabilitative care. The SCI/D program prioritizes managing individual patients’ ongoing needs by providing everyone with specialized attention focusing on home health and communal reintegration.

Find the best specialists to handle your specific spinal cord injury. Contact our capable team today or visit any of our locations to get a more comprehensive outlook on our SCI programs.

Medical Reviewer

Brian Higdon, MD

Associate Medical Director, Spinal Cord Injury Program
Dr. Higdon completed his BA in Liberal Studies at Florida College and his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He completed his Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency at the University of South Florida and completed a fellowship in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Higdon is board-certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and board certified in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. He joins Dr. Geneva Tonuzi on the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) team as the Associate Medical Director of the SCI program. He attends for spinal cord injury patients at the Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital – University Campus. He develops new programs for neurogenic bladder management, including urodynamic studies, as well as spasticity management for spinal cord injured patients.
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