Physical therapy treatment time during inpatient spinal cord injury rehabilitation

Sally Taylor-Schroeder, Jacqueline LaBarbera, Shari McDowell, Jeanne M. Zanca, Audrey Natales, Sherry Mumma, Julie Gassaway*, Deborah Backus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background/objective: To describe the nature and distribution of activities during physical therapy (PT) delivered in inpatient spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation and discuss predictors (patient and injury characteristics) of the amount of time spent in PT for specific treatment activities. Methods: Six hundred patients from six inpatient SCI centers were enrolled in the SCIRehab study. Physical therapists documented details, including time spent, of treatment provided during 37 306 PT sessions that occurred during inpatient SCI rehabilitation. Ordinary least squares regression models associated patient and injury characteristics with time spent in specific PT activities. Results: SCIRehab patients received a mean total of 55.3 hours of PT over the course of their rehabilitation stay. Significant differences among four neurologic groups were seen in the amount of time spent on most activities, including the most common PT activities of strengthening exercises, stretching, transfer training, wheelchair mobility training, and gait training. Most PT work (77%) was provided in individual therapy sessions; the remaining 23% was done in group settings. Patient and injury characteristics explained only some of the variations seen in time spent on wheelchair mobility, transfer and bed mobility training, and range of motion/stretching. Conclusion: Analysis yielded both expected and unexpected trends in SCI rehabilitation. Significant variation was seen in time spent on PT activities within and among injury groups. Providing therapeutic strengthening treatments consumed the greatest proportion of PT time. About one-quarter of all PT services were provided in group settings. Details about services provided, including time spent, will serve as a starting point in detailing the optimal treatment delivery for maximal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-161
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


  • Health services research
  • Paraplegia
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Tetraplegia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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