Bowel Movements and Spinal Cord Injury
For people in wheelchairs, including those individuals who have had spinal cord injuries, private body functions, such as bowel movements, can become an issue. This is because the injury prevents muscles and nerves from working together properly.
Fortunately, there are experts available who can help individuals with spinal cord injuries to deal with the issues that prevent them from being continent (i.e., being able to control the bowels and to avoid “accidents”). There are also certain tips that, when used, can improve your continence.
If you decide to use any of these tips, please change only one thing at a time. Also, please consult an experienced health-care expert before making any drastic changes.
To help your bowels work
Timing is everything:
- When you begin to eat, a natural reflex in your body starts muscles moving in the part of the colon right below your stomach. It takes 30 to 40 minutes for that muscle message to arrive at the rectum. This activity causes many people to have a bowel movement about 30 to 40 minutes after a meal. Plan accordingly.
- Try to go to the bathroom at the same time every day.
- Move whatever muscles you can, including the arms, head, legs, shoulders or feet. Remember, all movement helps.
- Rub your belly from left to right. That’s the way your colon coils inside your belly.
- Put your feet up on a stool. The idea is to have your knees above your hips so there is pressure on the abdomen.
- Go when you have the urge. Any delay can make the stool harder.
Watch Your Diet:
Drink up to two quarts of water a day.
- Eat high-fiber foods such as fruits, beans, vegetables, raisin bran and whole wheat. Avoid cereals with only one gram of fiber such as rice krispies, cornflakes or fruit loops.
- Bowel medication is OK for short-term use. Check with your doctor about all medications. If you are taking strong pain medication, you may need bowel medications
- Try Power Pudding : 1/2 cup wheat bran flakes; ½ cup prunes with a little juice; ½ cup applesauce; ½ cup of whipped topping. Blend ingredients, cover and refrigerate. Keep up to one week. Eat ¼ cup daily.
Whether you rely on a wheelchair for mobility or not, the goal of bowel management is to provide people with regular, controlled bowel movements that are predictable and continent. Happy bowels = happy people.