Spinal Cord Injury, Bladder and Bowel Control
Spinal cord injury is truly a traumatic experience. By traumatic I mean more than just the physical damage caused, but I also mean the added psychological burden on patients and their caregivers. Not only must people deal with motor and sensory problems that prevent one from doing tasks that we otherwise take for granted, but we also have to realize that certain complications can truly shatter confidence and inflict a heavier cross on family and friends.
Two of these complications are lack of control of peeing and pooping.
Imagine, not only are people unable to ambulate or move readily, but they can’t even keep things in. Imagine all the extra inconvenience of embarrassing moments, soiled items and clothes, and all around trouble.
Image of the spine. Courtesy freedigitalphotos.net / renjith krishnan
Researchers from the Guang An Men Hospital of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences (hmmm, I haven’t been there since 2010, gotta go back!) tried to gauge if electroacupuncture could be useful to help in this regard. In an article that came out last December (pubmed link) the doctors took fourteen patients and treated them with electroacupuncture once a day, five times a week for a month, and then three times a week for another month.
Six months later, four patients on follow up showed to have totally normal toilet functions. Six could “do it” normally about half the time, while the rest still needed help for more than half the time. Urinary incontinence was noted to decrease, and these improvements persisted.
As for moving the bowels, it wasn’t as good. Four had a return to normalcy, five had normal movements half the time, but the rest had no improvement.
Given that the study sample was quite small (fourteen), one cannot immediately draw definitive conclusions. This research paves the way for future studies where we can see for sure if electroacupuncture can be recommended for these conditions.