Let’s talk about sex… after spinal cord injury

25 Jun 2020

Addressing sex and intimacy concerns after spinal cord injury is the focus of research at The University of Queensland.

legsMs Chloe Bryant, PhD candidate in the UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said the aim was to improve support to people with a spinal cord injury and the health professionals who provide their care.

“This is an important area of practice and a meaningful part of a person’s life that should be discussed as part of healthcare,” she said.

“People with a spinal cord injury need to know that it is okay to bring these conversations up with health professionals, and health professionals should feel comfortable to bring these conversations up as well.

“Support of a person’s sexuality should extend beyond just the purely medical focus to address the other important aspects of sexuality such as intimacy and relationships.”

The research team is investigating what support is currently provided by health professionals to address sex and intimacy concerns after a spinal cord injury.

“We want to know what types of interventions and treatments are offered to people with a spinal cord injury and what people with a spinal cord injury would like to be offered,” Ms Bryant said.

“This will help us determine if we can improve the support provided.

“For example, do more interventions or treatments need to be offered to people with a spinal cord injury and does more training need to occur for health professionals?

“Are there other lesser known interventions or treatments that should be offered and who should be offering them? Should patients be referred to sex work services? Are there alternative and complementary medicines that can be used?”

Ms Bryant said sexuality was an important consideration for health professionals but something that is often neglected and stigmatised in practice.

“We hope to inform the professionals providing this support of the types of things they could or should be discussing with their patients.

“And we want people with spinal cord injuries to feel prepared to engage in intimacy when they are ready to by providing them with the tools and knowledge they need.”

The research team has partnered with two people who have a spinal cord injury to help guide the research.

People who have had a spinal cord injury and have received support for the injury within the last 10 years are invited to participate in a one-on-one interview about sex and intimacy.

The interview will focus on whether any support was provided to address sex and/or intimacy needs while receiving health services, and how this area of practice could be improved.

Health professionals who work/have worked with people with spinal cord injuries are asked to complete a survey on whether sex and intimacy is currently addressed in practice.

Media: Ms Chloe Bryant, chloe.bryant@uq.edu.au; Dani Nash, UQ Communications, habs.media@uq.edu.au, 0434 551 578.