Conditions Requiring Rehabilitation

There are dozens of conditions or injuries that may require rehabilitation to help you regain or maintain abilities or help you adapt to being “other abled.” Here you will find general descriptions of many of these along with links to resources for more information and support.


There are many reasons an amputation may be needed. It may be necessary after a severe injury from a motor vehicle accident or blast injury, or after a serious infection sets in due to poor blood circulation or a cancerous tumor in the bone or muscle.

Long-term recovery and rehabilitation will include exercises to improve muscle strength and control, activities to help restore the ability to carry out daily activities and promote independence, use of artificial limbs and assistive devices, and emotional support, including counseling, to help with grief about the loss of the limb and adjustment to a new body image.

Amputee Coalition

Brain Injury or Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs from a blow or damage to the head that which causes harm to your brain. TBI can be life-changing. Physical, emotional, and thinking difficulties may occur.

The goal of rehabilitation is to help you regain the most independent level of functioning possible. Rehabilitation channels the body's natural healing abilities and the brain's relearning processes. Rehabilitation also involves learning new ways to compensate for abilities that have permanently changed due to brain injury.

Brain Injury Association of America
Living with Traumatic Brain Injury (Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center)


People with severe burns need rehabilitation to prevent additional problems and to regain as much motion and independence as possible. Rehabilitation therapy starts on the day you are admitted to the hospital and continues during your hospital stay. The focus is to prevent a loss of range of motion, start scar management, assist with fluid reduction, and educate you and your family about possible burn-related problems.

Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors

Cancer Prehabilitation and Rehabilitation

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells and often results in a tumor(s). There are more than 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma.

The goal of cancer prehabilitation is to prevent or decrease problems that may result from cancer treatments. Prehabilitation takes place prior to cancer treatments and may include activities to improve nutrition, physical strength, and stamina, as well as increase your emotional strength so that you can complete all of your cancer treatments.

Cancer rehabilitation is designed to help you during and after treatment to help you gain your best physical, social, emotional, and work-related function.

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Rehabilitation After Cancer

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation helps you recover from a heart attack, heart surgery, or other heart problems. It is a medically supervised program that helps increase physical fitness, reduce cardiac (heart) symptoms, improve health, and reduce the risk of future heart problems.

American Heart Association Cardiac Rehabilitation Site

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused from damage in the developing brain affecting motor (movement) control centers. The damage can occur during pregnancy, during childbirth, or up until about age 3. The result is problems with movement and sometimes with sensation, communication, and depth perception.

Rehabilitation has an important role in helping with many aspects of care, including spasticity management, physical and occupational therapies, use of braces, and pain management. (Spasticity is an abnormal increase in muscle tone caused by damage to the nerve system that regulates muscle activity and can cause physical disability.)

United Cerebral Palsy
MyChild™ at
Cerebral Palsy Guide

Joint Replacement

Joint replacement surgery may be needed to replace a damaged or deformed joint and/or to reduce pain from a joint. Knees, hips, and shoulders are the most common joints where surgery is performed. Rehabilitation after surgery is very important to ensure pain-free function and movement of the joint and your quality of life.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Surgery
Activities After Hip Replacement
Activities After Knee Replacement

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that interrupts the flow of information in the brain or between the brain and body. Rehabilitation helps you with your overall physical conditioning helping to reduce fatigue so that you can feel and function at your best.

Rehabilitation can also address problems with moving around, dressing, personal care, and participation in home, work, or leisure activities. It can also treat any speech and swallowing difficulties or problems with thinking and memory.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Neurogenic Bladder

Neurogenic bladder is a disorder found in individuals who lack bladder control due to an injury or illness of the brain, spinal cord or nerves. The bladder, brain and sphincter are not communicating properly.

When the bladder empties too frequently, it may be described as overactive. The body is unable to store as much urine as it should, and the bladder empties more frequently than a normal bladder. Symptoms may be urinating more than once at night, strong urgent desire to urinate, and increased frequency (voiding more than 8 times in 24 hours).

Some neurologic disorders prevent the bladder from emptying properly. An individual’s bladder fills with urine yet does not have the feeling to urinate or does not squeeze to make the urine come out. This type of bladder disorder can also be described as underactive, flaccid or atonic bladder and it can result in urinary retention, or the inability of the bladder to empty. A catheter may be used to drain urine when the bladder can’t drain on its own.

Neurogenic Bladder
Autonomic Dysreflexia

Organ Transplants

You may need an organ transplant if one of your organs fails due to disease or injury. Organs transplanted most often are kidney, lung, heart, liver, pancreas, and small intestine, although other organs or parts of organs can also be transplanted.

Rehabilitation can help you move about or use devices such as walkers or canes while you are recovering from surgery. In addition, rehabilitation assists you in regaining strength and range of motion in your arms, legs, and other areas. It can also help you learn self-care activities such as eating, bathing, and using the bathroom.

Heart Transplant
Kidney Transplant
Liver Transplant
Lung Transplant

Osteoarthritis/Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is a disease that causes pain, swelling, and limited movement in joints and nearby tissues. The goal of rehabilitation is to reduce pain; increase strength, flexibility, and ease of movement; protect joints; conserve energy (if needed); and provide adaptations for daily living. Splints or braces may be used if needed.

Arthritis Foundation
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Rehabilitation

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the brain that causes shakiness and difficulty with walking, movement, and coordination. Goals of rehabilitation may include improving balance, walking, speech, and overall function.

Michael J. Fox Foundation
National Parkinson’s Foundation

Pediatric (Child) Rehabilitation

In addition to the many injuries and conditions that can affect an adult, children may also need rehabilitation if they are born with birth defects or congenital (present from birth) diseases. These include spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, brittle bone disease (osteogenisis imperfecta or OI), and other rare conditions.

Pediatric rehabilitation is family-centered and focuses on your child’s developmental level throughout his or her childhood. It also takes into consideration the rapid changes in size and function of your child’s organs and any potential age and growth-related issues. Once again, the goal of rehabilitation is to attain and maintain the highest level of function, mobility, and independence.

Cord Blood Center
Cord Blood Guide
March of Dimes
Muscular Dystrophy Association
MyChild™ at
Osteogenisis Imperfecta Foundation
Spina Bifida Association
United Cerebral Palsy

Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord resulting in changes that can be temporary or permanent. The spinal cord does not have to be severed for a loss of function to occur. Depending on where the spinal cord and nerve roots are damaged, the symptoms can vary widely, from pain to paralysis to loss of bladder or bowel control.

The goal of rehabilitation is to help you regain the most independent level of functioning possible. Rehabilitation also involves learning new ways to compensate for abilities that have permanently changed due to SCI.

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
Paralyzed Veterans of America Free Consumer Guide Downloads


A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or greatly reduced, blocking the brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. The effects of the stroke depend on which part of the brain has been affected. Rehabilitation can’t reverse the effects of stroke; instead the goal is to strengthen, change, or relearn the way you do things.

American Stroke Association
National Stroke Association

Glossary Conditions