Living With a Spinal Cord Injury - Bowel Care
You or a caregiver can manage your bowel
problems to prevent unplanned bowel movements, constipation, and diarrhea.
Although this often seems overwhelming at first, knowing what to do and
establishing a pattern makes bowel care easier and reduces your risk of
spinal cord injury generally affects the process
of eliminating waste from the intestines, causing a:
- Reflexive bowel. This means you cannot control when a bowel
- Flaccid bowel. This means you can't have a bowel movement. If
stool remains in the
mucus and fluid will sometimes leak out around the
stool and out the anus. This is called fecal incontinence.
When choosing a way to deal with bowel problems, you
and your rehab team will
discuss such things as the type of bowel problem you
have, your diet, whether you or a caregiver will do the program, and any
medicines that may affect your program.
- For a reflexive bowel, you may
use a stool softener, a
suppository to trigger the bowel movement, and/or
stimulation with your finger (digital stimulation). There are many stool
softeners and suppositories available. You will have to experiment to find what works best for you.
- For a flaccid bowel, you may use
digital stimulation and manual removal of the stool. At first,
you do this program every other day. Later, you may need to do it more often to
prevent accidents. You may also have to adjust how much and when you
- Eating more fiber can help some people who have spinal cord injuries manage their bowel habits. Good sources of fiber include whole-grain breads
and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.
For best results:
- Do your program at the same time every day. Most people do
their bowel program in the morning. Doing it after a meal can take advantage of a natural bowel reflex that happens after eating. Choose the most
convenient time for you, and stay with it.
- Sit up if possible. This can help move the stool down in the
intestine. If you cannot sit up, lie on your side.