Central nervous system (CNS) injuries do not heal properly in contrast to normal tissue repair, in which functional recovery typically occurs. The reason for this dichotomy in wound repair is explained in part by macrophage and microglial malfunction, affecting both the extrinsic and intrinsic barriers to appropriate axonal regeneration. In normal healing tissue, macrophages promote the repair of injured tissue by regulating transitions through different phases of the healing response. In contrast, inflammation dominates the outcome of CNS injury, often leading to secondary damage. Therefore, an understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying this dichotomy is critical to advance in neuronal repair therapies. Recent studies highlight the plasticity and complexity of macrophages and microglia beyond the classical view of the M1/M2 polarization paradigm. This plasticity represents an in vivo continuous spectrum of phenotypes with overlapping functions and markers. Moreover, macrophage and microglial plasticity affect many events essential for neuronal regeneration after injury, such as myelin and cell debris clearance, inflammation, release of cytokines, and trophic factors, affecting both intrinsic neuronal properties and extracellular matrix deposition. Until recently, this complexity was overlooked in the translation of therapies modulating these responses for the treatment of neuronal injuries. However, recent studies have shed important light on the underlying molecular mechanisms of this complexity and its transitions and effects on regenerative events. Here we review the complexity of macrophages and microglia after neuronal injury and their roles in regeneration, as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms, and we discuss current challenges and future opportunities for treatment.