As Kent Stephenson was gearing up for a national motocross competition in 2009, his bike suddenly lost power, and he went off, breaking his back and leaving this 21-year-old paralyzed from the chest down. He was devastated when he discovered he’d never have an intimate relationship with a woman again.
Americans have a bleak sexual outlook on people who have suffered spinal cord damage and are paralyzed. They are commonly seen as being sexually repressed.
But do you think it’s harder to attract romantic interest if your partner has a disability like paraplegia?
What are the implications of spinal cord damage for sexuality?
Decades ago, it was taboo and rarely done to address sexual and fertility difficulties with people with paraplegia. Many medical practitioners still avoid discussing sexuality with patients recovering from spinal cord injuries.
There has always been a curiosity about sexual activity among those with SCI or paraplegia, which cannot be disregarded. Intimacy is still crucial to a person with a disability, as all humans have an inherent desire to feel loved and connected.
Spinal cord injuries frequently result in paralysis, impaired sensation, and loss of sexual responses, and how this loss impacts arousal, orgasm, and fertility depends on the degree of the injury.
Intimacy is a Priority
In 2004, more than 300 people who were paralyzed from the chest down (primarily men) said that getting their sexual function back was their top priority. Managing one’s bowels and bladder came in at number two. Increasing mobility again ranked fifth.
Sexual function declines may impede the capacity to excite nerves and maintain blood flow, both of which are required for establishing and maintaining an erection.
A Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine report found that erection problems persisted in 95% of cases for an average of 1.2 years in males following damage. Within the first few years following injury, 80% of these men will regain the capacity to sustain an erection.
How well he can get an erection depends on several factors, including the severity of the injury and whether or not it is complete. The following types of reflex erections occur in men.
Psychogenic erections result from active fantasizing and are controlled by T11 through L2 neural areas. An injury above the area may reduce these sensations.
Reflexogenic erections, triggered by sexual contact, are regulated by sensory neurons S2–S4. Injury to this area affects this reflex erection.
Even after a spinal cord injury, some men may experience spontaneous erections in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. But this sensation is usually gone or significantly impaired.
Many men with spinal cord injuries worry and lack information about how their injuries may affect their ability to have sexual pleasure. That is why we would like to present a few tips on enjoying a loving relationship with a paraplegic man.
Yes, it’s still possible!
The self-reported incidence of orgasm in SCI patients usually is about 50 %. Many men who suffer from spinal cord injuries or other forms of paralysis that hinder their sex lives learn that they can still have a fulfilled sexual life, including orgasms, even when they cannot use or feel their genitalia.
Many able-bodied people have disabled partners. Both sides are happy with their sex lives.
Their new sexuality is sometimes more satisfying, they claim.
79% of men with partial lesions and 28% of those with total disabilities orgasmed in the experiment, according to a study of 45 men with SCI and their six able-bodied counterparts.
We all know that love can strike at any time and place, but with a little forethought and planning, you can guarantee the moment of your life.
If you’re already in a relationship, then communicate.
Like any other matter concerning your life with a paraplegic spouse, communication is the key. Being honest about your concerns, hesitations, and hopes is essential. Boundaries should be negotiated between caregiving and sexual experiences to prevent the partnership from becoming one of the equals.
Keep your words polite and sincere during this intimate moment.
Emotional attachment, closeness, and satisfaction in our relationships can all be essential parts of physical intimacy.
Rediscover Exogenous Zones.
Many individuals with spinal cord injuries report experiencing arousal or orgasms due to hyper-sensitivity above the point of injury. Some parts of the body, including the ears, neck, chest, and others, are susceptible to stimulation.
Exploring these areas with your spouse can enhance romantic satisfaction and communication.
Treatments For Erectile Dysfunction
If the injury is below the lumbar spinal level L2, men won’t be able to get an erection if they don’t get treatment for erectile dysfunction. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of management strategies available.
It’s normal to feel uneasy about enhancing one’s sexual life with sexual aides like devices, drugs, or even food. However, there’s no harm in trying it.
When used orally, erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra can help men get and keep an erection for 30 minutes to two hours. They are all equally effective and safe to use. Approximately 7 out of 10 men benefit and experience improved erections.
These drugs help most men with ED who have injuries between T6 and L5 get better erections and enjoy their sexual lives more.
Possible side effects include headaches, flushing of the face, upset stomach, muscle cramps, and trouble seeing.
But before starting any new drug, it’s essential to consult a doctor.
Vacuum Pumps. (VED/penis pump)
Vacuum therapy uses a hand-held pump to get blood into the penile area, a drug-free and non-invasive alternative.
A constriction band is put over the genitalia as the last step before sexual activity to help get an erection.
SCI has been linked to penile shrinking in some males. This may be caused by weight gain, inconsistent erections, and abdominal muscular weakness. And there are reports of vacuum pumps helping in this case.
Penile Injection Therapy
Intracavernosal injections are another alternative; when administered into the penile tissue, these medications can take effect within 5–10 minutes, and 88% of men were able to get an erection successfully.
Potential adverse effects include extended erections, bruising, and scarring.
Many penile implants, such as semi-rigid and inflatable devices, can help improve sexual health. 67% of partners of paraplegic men reported improvement in their dysfunction with its use.
It can have issues like implant failure, which is why doctors advise patients to use less invasive treatments first.
The possibility of having children exists even now
After sustaining a spinal cord injury, one of the most common concerns is whether or not one will be able to have children.
Paralysis often affects a man’s biological capacity to father a child biologically. But it’s also good news that men with SCI have a fair chance of becoming biological fathers if they have access to specialist clinics and care.
It may be more difficult for two reasons following erectile dysfunction. Ejaculating and the amount and quality of sperm
Paralysis rarely decreases a man’s sperm count over time. Some men may experience retrograde ejaculations, in which the sperm moves from the urethra to the bladder. They are, however, far less robust than those healthy men.
Both conditions may benefit from the treatments that are now available.
This method uses a vibrator to make the man ejaculate by stimulating a reflex in the spinal cord. Males with leg spasms (reflexes) respond well to vibratory stimulation.
Because it’s gentler on the body and less likely to create issues, almost everyone tries it first. It has an 86% success rate.
Electro-ejaculation is another method to encourage sperm production in men with spinal cord injuries. To release the sperm, the nerves are electrically stimulated.
If you follow these suggestions, you will have a far better chance of a satisfying physical experience.
A physical or occupational therapist is the best person to talk to about what treatments will help the most.
Beware of Risks
- Medications for erectile dysfunction treatment can also cause undesirable side effects like autonomic dysreflexia (AD) (which occurs when blood pressure rises in response to a stimulus). Recognizing and treating AD should be within your competence. Do not use these medications if your partner is at risk for developing low or high blood pressure or vascular disease.
- The risk of sexually transmitted diseases remains the same even after paralysis, but treatments exist.
- Sexual contact can cause skin damage through shearing, pressure, or friction. Since your partner will likely feel less of it, you can use proper padding and placement.
Don’t Give Up
“No disability, no matter how serious, can take away your right to have a relationship, experience love, and experience the attraction between two people,” reads the tagline of the American Consortium for Spinal Cord Medicine.
You and your partner shouldn’t quit too early.
Determine what interests and excites each of you by talking about it. If that is different, you and your partner can be flexible and try new things to make your relationship more exciting.
It is essential to understand that a man with a disability is like any other man and has needs and desires. True love is being able to overlook a partner’s flaws, develop together, and be unable to picture your life without your partner.
And whether one of us has a disability or not, you can embrace and express love naturally and comfortably for you and your spouse.
The love we accept is the love we believe we deserve.