A spinal cord injury can affect the level of control you have over your bladder. This is because messages no longer pass between the bladder muscles and the brain.
It may feel worrying and embarrassing to think about the way your injury has affected how you urinate. But, with the right support, you can gain as much control over your bladder as possible, which is important for your self-esteem and avoiding infections.
Below are some options for emptying your bladder. Finding the best method for you will help bladder management become part of your normal routine.
People with a spinal cord injury tend to speak openly, frankly and honestly about using a catheter as it’s such a normal part of life.
A catheter is a flexible tube that’s used to empty the bladder and collect urine in a drainage bag. It’s usually inserted into the bladder through the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of your body .
The three main types of catheter are:
- an indwelling urinary catheter, which is held in place by a water-filled balloon to stop it falling out. You may have this type when you first have your injury
- an intermittent catheter is inserted into your bladder every few hours to drain it. You can do this by yourself, or a nurse can help
- a suprapubic catheter is inserted through a hole in your tummy (abdomen) into your bladder. This procedure can be done under general, epidural or local anaesthetic
The right catheter for you will depend on a few things, including your hand function, gender and how often you get urine infections. Talk to your GP about getting assessed by a urologist for the right catheter. Or contact one of our specialist nurses who can discuss your options with you.
Sheaths or condoms – for men
A urinary sheath or condom is applied to the penis and attached by a plastic tube to a collecting bag. This is strapped to your leg or belly, or hung beside your bed or wheelchair.
You can use a method called ‘crede’ where you push inwards with a closed fist over your bladder to empty it. Or another, called ‘valsalva voiding’, where you tighten your abdominal muscles and bear down to force urine from your bladder.
Go to the bladder and bowel community website which provides information and support for all types of bladder and bowel-related problems .
We understand that adapting to managing your bladder can be tough on your self-esteem and mental health. If you need to speak to someone about this, or any other issues that concern you, you can book a call with our counsellor below.