When Word documents break
If a Word document won't open, you've got a host of repair and recovery options
On November 6th, an article appeared in the New York Times that all Word users should review.
The question in the Q and A column was Is it possible to extract the content from a corrupted Microsoft Word 2003 file that won't open? Turns out there are a number of options.
When opening a file with File -> Open, the "Files of Type" drop-down menu has an option to "Recover Text from Any File."
A more ambitious approach is to repair the document. In Word 2002, 2003 and 2007, use File -> Open, navigate to the file and select "Open and Repair" from the drop-down menu on the Open button.
In addition, the article links to Microsoft Knowledge Base articles with additional tips, and, a commercial product.
Let me add, that recovering and repairing may help or hurt. Thus, I suggest attempting each on a copy of the broken document, one created exclusively for this purpose.