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Physical and psychosocial effects of a spinal cord injury may lead to concerns and difficulty with sexual satisfaction, exploration, and arousal as well as diminished confidence with participation in intimate relationships (Craig Hospital, 2012). Current research indicates a decreased level of satisfaction with participation in sexual intimacy for adults with spinal cord injury (Fisher et al., 2002). Occupational therapists have a key role in the rehabilitation of individuals with spinal cord injury, and sexuality is an area of occupation which falls within our scope of practice (AOTA, 2008). Therefore it is necessary that occupational therapists are assertive in addressing the needs of this population through patient education in order to promote participation in this meaningful activity of daily living.

A systematic review was conducted to explore the literature addressing the efficacy of patient education in order to promote satisfaction with participation in sexual intimacy for adults with spinal cord injury. Following a database search including CINHAL, PubMed, Medline and OTSearch, seventeen articles were reviewed pertaining to sexuality after spinal cord injury. These included only peer reviewed articles written in English within the past 15 years involving adults (18 years and older) with spinal cord injury (Level S4 and above). All articles were critiqued using Law & MacDermid (2008) critical review forms. Findings indicate a need for further research to identify the needs of adults living with SCI in the area of sexuality and intimacy, especially within the occupational therapy literature. More specifically, themes emerged including satisfaction with sexual intimacy pre and post injury, experiences with sexual education following injury, the unmet needs of women and recommendations for rehabilitation programs. The findings will allow for a more holistic and effective approach to sexual rehabilitation programs for this population, as there is a recurrent theme of dissatisfaction with current practices across disciplines.


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2008). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and process (2nd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, 625-683.

Craig Hospital. (2012). Sexual function for men after spinal cord injury. Englewood, Colorado.

Fisher, T., Laud, P., Byfield, M., Brown, T., Hayat, M., & Fiedler, I. (2002). Sexual Health After Spinal Cord Injury: A Longitudinal Study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 83, 1043 - 1051.