Pre-clinical studies place tumor necrosis factor (TNF) as a central player in the inflammatory response after spinal cord injury (SCI), and blocking its production and/or activity has been proposed as a possible treatment option after SCI. This systematic review provides an overview of the literature on the temporal and cellular expression of TNF after SCI and clarifies the potential for its therapeutic manipulation in SCI. A systematic search was performed in EMBASE (Ovid), MEDLINE (Ovid), and Web of Science (Core Collection). The search terms were the MeSH forms of tumor necrosis factor and spinal cord injury in the different databases, and the last search was performed on February 3, 2021. We found twenty-four articles examining the expression of TNF, with most using a thoracic contusive SCI model in rodents. Two articles described the expression of TNF receptors in the acute phase after SCI. Twenty-one articles described the manipulation of TNF signaling using genetic knock-out, pharmaceutical inhibition, or gain-of-function approaches. Overall, TNF expression increased rapidly after SCI, within the first hours, in resident cells (neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia) and again in macrophages in the chronic phase after injury. The review underscores the complexity of TNF’s role after SCI and indicates that TNF inhibition is a promising therapeutic option. This review concludes that TNF plays a significant role in the inflammatory response after SCI and suggests that targeting TNF signaling is a feasible therapeutic approach.