Intimacy and Sex with a Spinal Cord Injury

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
10/29/18  2:06 PM PST
Sex with a Spinal Cord Injury

For many people, there is a natural, primal instinct to physically connect with someone. This connection is special and is often is taken for granted. A spinal cord injury (SCI) can interrupt that connection with the loss, or reduction, of sensation and muscle control. SCI can also affect erection, ejaculation, and vaginal lubrication and orgasm, with more indirect dysfunctions of pain, weakness, and the negative side effects of medications. And let us not forget the psycho-social effects that can cause depression and altered self-image.

My self-image and sexual identity is a significant and encompassing aspect of my personality – sexuality plays an essential role in how I think and feel about myself, how I relate to others and how others relate to me.

Spinal cord injury often impacts people’s sexuality and their self-image both physically and psychologically. As a man, I wondered “can I still do it?” I worried if I could ever have sex again at all, whether I could attract a girlfriend, whether that woman would stay, and would having children ever be possible.

For women, I can only imagine the complexity of thoughts, feeling and emotions about sexuality. Society already places obscene pressure on women to uphold modern sexual standards, this pressure then being compounded by a devastating, self-image crisis of injury.

Although it is true that after disease or injury both men and women often face physical and emotional changes, the good news is that there are many people living with paralysis (including myself) who’ve figured out how to rediscover healthy and satisfying sexual lives.

It Starts with Communication

Communication with a potential intimate partner is where the magic begins. I like to share candidly, yet confidently, about my spinal cord injury. I am often surprised by how many questions I receive about this and that, and, “Does it work?”

What I have found is that by helping my partner feel comfortable when asking me questions, we both enter into a space of exploration. I encourage the adventure, and by acknowledging both our vulnerability and insecurity, we share the most special, intimate moments together.

Understand Your Body

It is imperative for you to know the secondary complications of your level of spinal cord injury. Be sure to ask your doctor about the implications of sexual activity and medications, especially if you use any erectile dysfunction (ED) medication. The last thing you want is to turn a dream into a nightmare.

Tips for Intimacy with A Spinal Cord Injury

When it is time for an intimate moment, here are a few tips that can make you feel comfortable, confident and ready for action.

  • Bathroom first!
    • A thorough emptying of the bowel and bladder provides priceless piece of mind.
    • Keep urological supplies, towels and toiletries (and toys) nearby, just in case!
  • Showers are great!
  • A comfortable and familiar environment.
    • For a pleasant experience, the environment plays a huge role in both your and your partner’s security and confidence.
  • The right medication.
    • If you use a medication for ED, be sure you understand its side effects and implications (indications/contraindications) with other medicines.
  • Plan ahead.
    • We all know that an intimate moment can occur at any time, in any place (I’m all for it), but doing a little forward thinking and planning ahead can put all of the above into place and prepare you for the time of your life!

Best of luck on your adventurous journey of sex, love and rock & roll. The right partner will enjoy the ride with you.

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