Original research| Volume 102, ISSUE 5, P865-873, May 2021

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Effect of Different Forms of Activity-Based Recovery Training on Bladder, Bowel, and Sexual Function After Spinal Cord Injury

Published:December 02, 2020DOI:



      To investigate whether the urogenital and bowel functional gains previously demonstrated post-locomotor step training after chronic spinal cord injury could have been derived due to weight-bearing alone or from exercise in general.


      Prospective cohort study; pilot trial with small sample size.


      Urogenital and bowel scientific core facility at a rehabilitation institute and spinal cord injury research center in the United States.


      Men and women (N=22) with spinal cord injury (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale grades of A-D) participated in this study.


      Approximately 80 daily 1-hour sessions of either stand training or nonweight-bearing arm crank ergometry. Comparisons were made with previously published locomotor training data (step; N=7).

      Main Outcome Measures

      Assessments at both pre- and post-training timepoints included cystometry for bladder function and International Data Set Questionnaires for bowel and sexual functions.


      Cystometry measurements revealed a significant decrease in bladder pressure and limited improvement in compliance with nonweight-bearing exercise but not with standing. Although International Data Set questionnaires revealed profound bowel dysfunction and marked deficits in sexual function pretraining, no differences were identified poststand or after nonweight-bearing exercise.


      These pilot trial results suggest that, although stand and weight-bearing alone do not benefit pelvic organ functions after spinal cord injury, exercise in general may contribute at least partially to the lowering of bladder pressure and the increase in compliance that was seen previously with locomotor training, potentially through metabolic, humoral, and/or cardiovascular mechanisms. Thus, to maximize activity-based recovery training benefits for functions related to storage and emptying, an appropriate level of sensory input to the spinal cord neural circuitries controlling bladder and bowel requires task-specific stepping.


      List of abbreviations:

      AD (autonomic dysreflexia), AIS (American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale), BWSS (body weight support system), CIC (clean intermittent catheterization), Fr (French), FSFI (female sexual function index), IIEF (International Index of Erectile Function), LT (locomotor training), NBD (neurogenic bowel dysfunction), SCI (spinal cord injury), SP (suprapubic catheter), UDS (urodynamic study), UE (upper extremity)
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