Will a Spinal Cord Injury Impact my Sex Life?

Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 3, 2014

sex lifeMany people with spinal cord injuries want to know if and how their sex life will be affected by their injury. It’s a great question with a complex answer. In this blog we will discuss the ways in which spinal cord injuries impact a person’s sex life. 

Types of Injury

The affect of a spinal cord injury on a patient’s sex life is firstly dependent on the extent and level of the injury. With spine injuries that do not involve nerve damage or paralysis, a patient’s sex life is largely unaffected. There may be pain that makes sex uncomfortable, but the ability to have sex will typically remain unaffected.

Injuries in which nerves are damaged or severed are more likely to make sex difficult.

The Erection Question

The number one question male patients have is “will I still be able to get an erection?” To answer this question, we need to briefly discuss the two basic types of erections –

  1. Psychogenic erections occur when a person sees, hears, or thinks something stimulating. The brain sends these signals down through the nerves in the spinal cord to the penis.
  2. Reflex erections are the result of physical contact. The nerves responsible for this type of erection are in the sacral (lower) spine.

Most patients with spinal cord injuries are able to have reflex erections. Psychogenic erections are less likely. The ability to have a psychogenic erection depends on whether the injury is complete or incomplete, and also the specific level of the nerves that are damaged. Erectile dysfunction is also a common occurrence in patients with spinal injuries.

Spinal cord injuries can impact a person both physically and emotionally, with the physical challenges contributing directly to the emotional. Patients who have trouble performing physically often experience feelings of inadequacy.

For patients struggling with sex following a spinal cord injury, there are treatment methods available to get you back to a healthy, functioning sex life. Contact a spine injury specialist to discuss your options.

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