What Does the Bowel Do?
bowel is the last portion of your digestive tract and is
sometimes called the large intestine or colon. The digestive
tract as a whole is a hollow tube that extends from the mouth to
The function of the digestive system is to take food
into the body and to get rid of waste. The bowel is where the
waste products of eating are stored until they are emptied from
the body in the form of a bowel movement (stool, faeces).
A bowel movement happens when the rectum (last portion of the
bowel) becomes full of stool and the muscle around the anus
(anal sphincter) opens.
With a spinal cord injury, damage can occur to the nerves
that allow a person to control bowel movements. If the spinal
cord injury is above the T-12 level, the ability to feel when
the rectum is full may be lost. The anal sphincter muscle
remains tight, however, and bowel movements will occur on a
reflex basis. This means that when the rectum is full, the
defecation reflex will occur, emptying the bowel. This type of
bowel problem is called an upper motor neuron or reflex bowel.
It can be managed by causing the defecation reflex to occur at a
socially appropriate time and place.
A spinal cord injury below the T-12 level may damage the
defecation reflex and relax the anal sphincter muscle. This is
known as a lower motor neuron or flaccid bowel. Management of
this type of bowel problem may require more frequent attempts to
empty the bowel and bearing down or manual removal of stool.
Both types of neurogenic bowel can be managed successfully to
prevent unplanned bowel movements and other bowel problems such
as constipation, diarrhoea and impaction.
What does the bowel do?
Methods for emptying the bowel
Bowel Management Tips
What to avoid