Truths in Paralysis – For Now

Science and research are exploding with developments in all areas of healthcare, paralysis is right at the top of the list. Many thoughts about paralysis have been developing for over 20-40 years but are now coming to fruition. Although a cure is an unmet goal, treatments, and therapies are improving the lives of individuals. Today’s truths about neurogenic bladder and bowel, skincare, and movement need to be met as new therapies are implemented.

woman in wheelchair smiling

Truth 1. Neurogenic bladder and neurogenic bowel must be treated.

Neurogenic bladder and bowel are the result of a failure of messages sent to and from the brain and body. Current treatment for neurogenic bladder is a regimented bladder emptying program on a timed schedule and monitoring fluid intake. This must be done to maintain bladder function and protect the kidneys.

Neurogenic bowel is managed with a bowel program to fit the condition of the individual. Complications of failure to maintain a bowel program can result in impaction, an over-distended bowel, fissures, diverticula, and even a backed-up bowel resulting in vomiting stool. Besides that, it is uncomfortable. A neurogenic bowel can develop constipation or diarrhea. Treatment of these conditions is necessary, but not effective treatment for neurogenic bowel. The bowel program must be completed on a timely basis even if it is unappealing to the individual.

Truth 2. Skin care must be performed.

Many individuals have a strong reliance on pressure-dispersing equipment to maintain the integrity of their skin. Medical grade skin protecting equipment and positioning supports are very helpful in reducing pressure injury, however, no item can eliminate pressure injury risk. Pressure releases must be done routinely either by lifting your body to allow the tiny capillaries to refill or using the tilt feature on your power chair to shift pressure areas.

Pressure injury begins inside the body. Mostly it occurs when a boney prominence presses against the tissue inside the body. It can also occur when wearing clothing that is too tight, a wrinkle in clothes or bedding, or equipment that rubs, among any other irritations. Once the injury occurs within the body, a change in pigmentation on the skin will be seen much later when the damage has occurred.

If a pigment change occurs, it is best to keep off the area. This makes sure no additional pressure is added until the body has time to heal itself. This is a huge challenge. Healing a pressure injury when it just begins is much easier than the time it will take to heal after it has evolved. Also, skin heals by scar formation which is not as elastic as natural, unscarred skin.

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Truth 3. The body should be provided with movement.

Just because you may not sense the need to move the body that is affected by paralysis does not mean that it does not need it. Gently moving the body provides input to the areas where it is affected by paralysis and will help keep opposing muscles in alignment avoiding contractures and even misshaping of the body as with scoliosis. Movement can enhance breathing, bowel, bladder, skin, and other body functions. Mental wellness is perceived as better when the body has movement.

In the future, with the advancement of therapeutic options available to everyone, bladder and bowel care will become less challenging. Skin integrity will improve. Movement will increase. Caring for your body now will make this transition easier as your general health improves.

It has been a very long time waiting for many of the new healthcare treatments to become available to everyone. However, this year, we should see the opportunity for you to have a choice of trying the new devices.

For more information regarding bladder, click here.

For more information regarding bowel, click here.

For more information regarding skin care, click here.

About the Author - Nurse Linda

Linda Schultz, Ph.D., CRRN is a leader, teacher, and provider of rehabilitation nursing for over 30 years. In fact, Nurse Linda worked closely with Christopher Reeve on his recovery and has been advocating for the Reeve Foundation ever since.

Nurse Linda

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.