How a Spinal Cord Injury Leads to Incontinence
by Gary Sattin on Oct 04, 2022
Unfortunately, some health problems lead to incontinence you can’t completely recover from. This typically applies to spinal cord injuries. While you can always take positive steps forward, you will likely live with some degree of incontinence in the future. To learn how a spinal cord injury leads to incontinence, as well as how to manage your bladder troubles, read this brief guide on the subject.
A supra-sacral spinal injury refers to the location of the damage. Because the brain organizes and sends messages down the spine, any injury above the sacral vertebrae (the section responsible for urination) leads to incontinence.
Initially, the spine undergoes spinal shock. This type of bodily shock lasts for a long time—usually between two and six months. During this time, the detrusor bladder muscle retains urine, in part because the parasympathetic nervous system cannot communicate with it.
As shock subsides, your sacral vertebrae work independently from your brain. This means that, rather than controlled bathroom functions, you develop a voiding reflex that leads to an overactive bladder. Rather than retaining urine, your bladder tends to become overactive.
Meanwhile, an injury directly to the sacral vertebrae affects urination in different ways. Damage reduces the activity of the bladder muscles and renders it underactive. As with spinal shock, the bladder thus retains urine. Typically, incontinence is expressed in urine overflows, which you can’t keep at bay due to lost control over a sphincter muscle.
Managing Incontinence After an Injury
Though these spinal injuries have lasting consequences, you can always find more relief by creatively managing your urinary problems. Here are some options for wresting back control and freedom.
First off, a reliable incontinence garment goes a long way to help you get a hold on your overactive bladder. As you go about your day, wearing a pair of TotalDry pads restores some predictability. These are important as you navigate your many simultaneous spine-related symptoms during the early stages of spinal shock.
Another tool to help regulate urination is clean intermittent catheterization. This provides a medium for urine release that doesn’t constantly irritate you. Plus, if you are able to do so, you can apply your catheter without requiring others’ assistance.
For further questions about how a spinal cord injury leads to incontinence, get in touch with our compassionate and knowledgeable TotalDry team.