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Thread: Bowel/bladder effects with SCI

  1. #1

    Red face Bowel/bladder effects with SCI

    Hello!

    In May 2007, i had an operation to remove a very large benign tumor from inside my spinal cord, in roughly the C4 to T5 region. I was paralyzed for several months after the surgery, but have since recovered and am enjoying a nearly normal, pre-surgical life! However, there are some very noteworthy differences in my life now versus my pre-surgical life. I still have many deficits in my left leg (the one that was paralyzed longer), i have no feeling whatsoever in a small, one-inch band of skin going around my body directly below my breasts, and I have almost no rectal control and perhaps average bladder control.

    For a long while, I struggled with bowel/bladder problems, and this is why I write to the forum now. In the beginning, I had extreme constipation, and it seemed any little upset in my normal diet could bind me up. Now, I've reached a diet/lifestyle that produces bowel movements nearly every day - I can't describe how much of a triumph this is! However, digital stimulation is involved most of the time, and i wonder how appropriate this may be so long after my surgery.

    Digital stimulation was used on me during my hospital stay/recovery period, often with little result. I used to use digital stimulation then to help the stool descend - this was when I was having a bowel movement every 3 days or so, sometimes up to 5 days in between poops! Now, the problem seems to be that the stool makes it all the way down, and i can feel it ready to come out....but it just doesnt make its way out without a little extra help. The stim is very quick, it doesnt need much assistance at all, sometimes just a few seconds or more. Is this normal in spinal cord injuries? Am i abusing my body or preventing it from operating normally? I feel I've made such progress with my body in terms of healing, diet changes and making sure that everything functions as well as it can post-surgery, that I'd hate to think I'm messing it up through digital stimulation.

    Any help on this would be much appreciated...nobody I know has gone through something like this, and so I feel like the odd one out, like this is my secret life or something only I have to deal with!

    I'd like to hope that one day I wont have to help myself out in this way, but also, being that I have very little control over my rectum, i find it sometimes socially necessary to have a bowel movement when its more convenient for me than to just wait for it to come along on its own, when i might be caught in a position where i cant reach a toilet! I've only suffered from incontinence twice in the past two and a half years...both times related to eating things that made my stomach sick.

    Much appreciation to those that respond...thanks for reading!

  2. #2
    It sounds like you have had a pretty good recovery. Yes, many people with SCI regardless of the cause have problems with control of their bowels and bladder. When you say "nearly normal" bladder control, what do you mean? Bowel and bladder usually go hand in hand due to their innervation.

    Doing digital stimulation to fatigue the anal sphincter when you cannot voluntarily relax it yourself is a common technique used by those with SCI with an upper motor neuron bowel. Long term use will not harm you, although you may develop hemorrhoids over time. Are you using a suppository of some kind to bring stool down into the rectal vault and help time your bowel program so you can get it over with every day or every other day?

    (KLD)

  3. #3
    Thank you for your response!

    When I say nearly normal bladder control, I mean that i can definitely hold my urine when i feel the need to go, and i can stop/start the stream at will. However, I am largely unaware of the physical sensation of such actions, if that makes any sense. I can perform the function, without much sensation that I'm doing so. It seems to be a mental concentration type of thing.

    I am not using any suppositories because there is no need to! Over the past two years, I've toyed with my diet and I've found a diet now that helps me have regular bowel movements (lots of beans, veggies, grains, etc). So the problem now is not the stool leaving the rectal vault, but simply that it will sit right at the bottom, ready to come out but not making that final push! Also, i've noticed a semblance of a pattern in my bowel movements, which I'm not sure if that can be attributed to the digital stimulation or maybe my own body rhythms. This aspect of the journey - where now the stool descends almost completely but just doesn't make the final push out - makes me happy, because my problems definitely used to be that it wouldnt be descending -at all-.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

    -Shannon

  4. #4
    Senior Member CapnGimp's Avatar
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    Sounds like your bowel program is like mine EXCEPT for digital stim. I just reach in and get what is there and I'm done. Also sounds like this has caused you to eat a better diet than before, which is a GOOD thing.
    The digi-stim of the anal sphincter to get it to relax/open and allow the exit of, is a 'normal' thing with sci and shouldn't be a cause for worry for you. That healthy diet will go a long way to ensuring a long life. In this respect, I began taking care of my body and have a much better life now, I am 'glad' for my injury. I wouldn't have lasted to many years in my former way of living. Good luck on continued recovery!

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