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  • Writer's pictureLila Abbate, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, WCS

Chronic Constipation and Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

No one likes talking about it, but constipation affects millions of people each year. Going overboard on a cheese plate or not drinking enough water are one thing, but chronic constipation while maintaining a relatively normal diet can be disruptive, painful, and can negatively affect your quality of life. Since constipation is a symptom of an underlying condition, it can be tricky to diagnose. [1] If you’ve tried common remedies for constipation but haven’t found relief, you may benefit from physical therapy as a means to happy, healthy bowels and a satisfied you.

Oftentimes, patients with complaints of constipation are recommended high fiber supplements, laxatives, and at-home enemas. While these prescriptions may relieve the constipation, they may instead leave you with stomach pain, gas, and cramping. [1] Additionally, it has been found that increased laxative use is linked to an increased likelihood of colon cancer, so unless you and your doctor are absolutely sure that laxatives are your best option, you may want to seek out alternative treatments and therapies which are less risky. [2]

Chronic constipation connected to pelvic floor dysfunction

What many people don’t know is that stool quality is not the only factor in developing symptoms of constipation. The pelvic floor muscles especially the puborectalis and external anal sphincter play a large role in evacuation of our bowels. Any dysfunction with these muscles could be the culprit for your discomfort. [1] In these cases, taking medication to affect stool quality will at best mask your symptoms, but these treatments will not get down to the root cause or fully alleviate you of the discomfort.

If you are suffering with chronic constipation which is still unresolved despite many over-the-counter and prescription products, you may want to talk to your doctor about seeing a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health. A pelvic health physical therapist are professionals who are laser focused on the intricate web of muscles that make up your pelvic floor that assist your body in the movement of bowels. Your treatment can include simple abdominal massages you can be trained to do on your own at home and/or biofeedback training to regain normal functioning of the muscles in the pelvic region. [1] In order to have healthy bowel movements, you will be professionally instructed on how to properly eccentrically contract your abdominal muscles while relaxing your sphincter to reduce the feeling of straining. [1]

Here at New Dimensions Physical Therapy, we take a holistic look at what could be causing your constipation. As it is most common in women of any age and especially people over the age of 65, there are vast and different underlying issues that could be the cause of your discomfort. [1] Since we treat patients of any gender and age, we take into consideration your diet, water intake, any past or recent surgeries, current medications, and the functionality of your pelvic floor before formulating the treatment plan that will work best for you. Our therapists know the great discomfort chronic constipation can cause and we’re here to help you every step of the way! If you’re ready to get things moving again, give us a call at (646) 630-5815.

  1. Harrington, Kendra L, Haskvitz, Esther M. Managing a Patient's Constipation with Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy, Volume 86, Issue 11, 1 November 2006, Pages 1511–1519.

  2. Watanabe T, Nakaya N, Kurashima K, et al. Constipation, laxative use and risk of colorectal cancer: the Miyagi cohort study. Eur J Cancer. 2004; 40: 2109 –2115.

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