Do you ever have the sudden urge to go to the bathroom and feel like you are not going to make it? Imagine the people who experience incontinence daily. We’re sure it’s embarrassing to those individuals. If you are reading this and it sounds like you, please keep reading because we can help. In this week’s blog, we are going to discuss incontinence and identify what we can do to help. 

Anatomy and Physiology of the Rectum & Anus

The rectum and anus are the last two organs associated with the digestive system. The rectum is a part of the large intestine that stores feces. The rectum absorbs excess water and holds it until it’s full. Once full, nerves trigger the urge to defecate. 

The anus is the end of the large intestine, where food waste completes its journey through the digestive tract and towards expulsion. Muscles, nerves, and mucous membranes work together to produce healthy bowel movements and also work to keep the anus closed to infections from external entry.

Anatomy and Physiology of the Urinary System

Four organs make up the urinary system: kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. When food and liquid is broken down and absorbed, remaining waste is left in the colon and blood. The waste that is left in the colon turns into feces and is expelled through the anus. The remaining waste in the blood is called urea and travels to the kidneys along with other fluids to make urine. 

Urine then travels down the ureters, which are long tubes that connect from the kidneys to the bladder. Once urine is in the bladder, it is stored until the bladder becomes full and the urge to expel from the body becomes necessary. A female urethra is a short distance to travel from the bladder whereas a male urethra is significantly longer as it travels through three different urethras until urine is expelled out of the body. 

Connecting the Urinary System and Bowel to the Nervous System

Realize this description of the anatomy and physiology of the urinary system and bowel is just a brief overview. Each organ involved with urination and defecation has its own anatomical variations and physiological function that plays a part in successful waste expulsion.

When we look at the urinary system and bowel in relation to the nervous system, remember that the nervous system is why our organs function properly. If you recall our blog from a few weeks ago, we reviewed how the Autonomic Nervous System is responsible for organ function and showed a diagram of what nerves innervate different organs.

If you refer back to the diagram, you will notice that the organs of the urinary system and bowel have nerve innervations coming from the lumbar spine, sacral, and pelvic regions. When nerve interference occurs in this region, without treatment, the organs begin to fail and further complications are likely.

How Can Chiropractors Manage Incontinence?

There are a few medical conditions that can cause both urinary and bowel incontinence. In addition, some medications can cause incontinence. If that is the cause, talk to your primary care physician to re-evaluate the dosage. Urinary tract infections are common causes of urinary incontinence. Some chiropractors claim they can manage these cases but there is insufficient evidence supporting these claims. 

There are not many medical conditions that cause bowel incontinence, but inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is one condition that may do so. To learn more about IBD, please refer to last week’s blog.

The most common cause of incontinence is neurological. This can be separated into three categories.

  1. Neurological Disorder- Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, brain tumor, etc.
  2. Trauma- childbirth trauma, spinal cord injury
  3. Nerve Interference

When a neurological disorder is the cause of incontinence, routine chiropractic care will help slow the progression of the disease; However, as the disease advances, treatment will become less effective.

When trauma is the cause of incontinence, routine chiropractic care will help depending on the severity of the injury. If the injury is mild to moderate, it will help stabilize the condition, whereas in a severe case, it may do very little.

Nerve interference is a chiropractor’s domain. Many cases of incontinence may be due to spinal misalignment that puts pressure on lumbar, sacral, and pelvic nerves. With routine chiropractic care, chiropractors can remove nerve interference and completely resolve incontinence issues.

There are two medical conditions that we want to briefly discuss. The first is a medical condition that is a medical emergency, and the other is something we see in our facility every day.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

The cauda equina is a sack of nerve roots that descend below the spinal cord and gives motor and sensory function to the legs, bladder, anus, and perineum. The nerve roots give a horse tail appearance, hence the name, cauda equina. 

Cauda Equina syndrome occurs when the nerve roots are severely impinged due to a severely herniated disc, trauma, infection, tumor, or narrowing of the spinal canal. If you are experiencing symptoms that include loss of motor function in the legs, loss of feeling in the legs and buttocks, and both urinary and bowel incontinence, go to an emergency room. Surgery is imperative as it applies considerable pressure on nerve roots that could cause irreversible damage if treatment is prolonged. 


Neuropathy is broken down into two words: “Neuro” meaning nerve and “Pathy” meaning disease. Therefore, neuropathy is a nerve disease that gets progressively worse as time passes. A more blunt but accurate description of neuropathy is the failure and potential death of nerves, culminating in a loss of the entire function of a single or multiple nerves. 

There are over 200 different causes of neuropathy with the most common cause being idiopathic neuropathy which means no known cause. Some other common causes of neuropathy include exposure to toxins such as drugs, alcoholism or chemotherapy treatments, metabolic deficiencies due to lack of vitamins, or the ever-popular diabetes. 

If you are new to our blogs, note that our facility specializes in neuropathy management. We have helped hundreds of neuropathy patients live a better quality of life using state-of-the-art equipment. To learn more about neuropathy and our neuropathy management program, please refer to several of our neuropathy blogs that we posted in the 2023 calendar year. 


Realize that we are not board certified neurologists. If you have a true medical concern, please contact your primary care physician who can refer you to the appropriate specialist. Once a diagnosis is confirmed we can co-manage your care and help remove nerve interference. 

If you have any questions about how we can help with certain incontinence problems please call us at (724) 547-3377 and check out our website, for more information.

Yours in Health,

Larry E. Wilkins, D.C.

Brian M. Steinert, D.C.