© 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Mitochondria are responsible for aerobic respiration and large-scale ATP production in almost all cells of the body. Their function is decreased in many neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease states, in metabolic disorders such as type II diabetes and obesity, and as a normal component of aging. Disuse of skeletal muscle from immobilization or unloading triggers alterations of mitochondrial density and activity. Resultant mitochondrial dysfunction after paralysis, which precedes muscle atrophy, may augment subsequent release of reactive oxygen species leading to protein ubiquitination and degradation. Spinal cord injury is a unique form of disuse atrophy as there is a complete or partial disruption in tonic communication between the central nervous system (CNS) and skeletal muscle. Paralysis, unloading and disruption of CNS communication result in a rapid decline in skeletal muscle function and metabolic status with disruption in activity of peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-gamma co-activator 1 alpha and calcineurin, key regulators of mitochondrial health and function. External interventions, both acute and chronical with training using body-weight-assisted treadmill training or electrical stimulation have consistently demonstrated adaptations in skeletal muscle mitochondria, and expression of the genes and proteins required for mitochondrial oxidation of fats and carbohydrates to ATP, water, and carbon dioxide. The purpose of this mini-review is to highlight our current understanding as to how paralysis mechanistically triggers downstream regulation in mitochondrial density and activity and to discuss how mitochondrial dysfunction may contribute to skeletal muscle atrophy.