Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a progressive disease involving the degeneration of motor neurons with no currently available treatment. While valproic acid (VPA) is a potential treatment for SMA, its therapeutic mechanisms are still controversial. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms of action of VPA in the treatment of type III-like SMA mice. SMA and wild-type mice were treated with VPA from 6 to 12 months and 10 to 12 months of age, respectively. Untreated SMA littermates and age-matched wild-type mice were used for comparison. VPA-treated SMA mice showed better motor function, larger motor-evoked potentials, less degeneration of spinal motor neurons, less muscle atrophy, and better neuromuscular junction innervation than non-treated SMA mice. VPA elevated SMN protein levels in the spinal cord through SMN2 promoter activation and probable restoration of correct splicing of SMN2 pre-messenger RNA. VPA also increased levels of anti-apoptotic factors, Bcl-2 and Bcl-x(L), in spinal neurons. VPA probably induced neurogenesis and promoted astrocyte proliferation in the spinal cord of type III-like SMA mice, which might contribute to therapeutic effects by enhancing neuroprotection. Through these effects of elevation of SMN protein level, anti-apoptosis, and probable neuroprotection, VPA-treated SMA mice had less degeneration of spinal motor neurons and better motor function than untreated type III-like SMA mice.