Discussing Sexuality in Spinal Cord Injuries: Sexual Function

11.27.2017
Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via In The News
Source: 
In The News
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Sexuality is an important part of a person’s identity. Sexuality is a broad concept that involves not only sexual behaviors, but aspects such as relationships, self image, sex drive, and more. There are many misconceptions regarding sexuality and spinal cord injury.

Sexuality is largely based on societal perceptions. For a long time, people who sustained spinal cord injuries were thought to be asexual (not interested or have the ability to have sex.) Research has proven that many people with spinal cord injuries rated sexual function as a top priority next to having full mobility in their arms and legs.

Sexual Function

Many people with spinal cord injuries have some degree of sexual dysfunction because of problems with sensation and the body’s arousal responses. The severity of injury is an important aspect that can determine how much sexual function will return as a person recovers.

graphic of two faces facing one another with words on them

There are complete and incomplete spinal cord injuries. A incomplete injury indicates that the brain can still send and receive some messages to the lowest part of the spinal cord, beyond where the cord is damaged. For people with incomplete injuries, some or all of the spinal tracts involved in sexual responses (like an orgasm) remain in tact. A complete injury means that the spinal cord cannot transmit any messages past the level of the legion. However, some people with complete injuries can achieve an orgasm. The peripheral nerves of the parasympathetic nervous system that carry messages to the brain may explain why people with complete spinal cord injuries feel sexual and climatic experiences. One explanation for this theory in women is that the vagus nerve bypasses the spinal cord and carries sensory information from the genitals directly to the brain. Women with complete injuries can be sexually aroused through stimulation of different parts of the body, such as, the clitoris, cervix or vagina. These areas of the body are innervated by different nerve pathways. If the spinal cord injury interferes with one area of the body, function might be preserved in others.

The brain is responsible for the way sensations are perceived. The overall experience of climax is modulated by the brain, rather than a specific area of the body.

Sexuality is an important quality of life. Share this post to educate others and be sure to check back for further posts discussing the topic!

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