Did you know that Physical Therapists can receive special training for evaluating and treating Pelvic Floor conditions? When you’re dealing with an issue such as constipation, you don’t necessary (or ever) think about calling a Physical Therapist. But indeed, there are Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists trained in managing and treating a variety of conditions including constipation, Pelvic floor pain, urinary or fecal incontinence, and much more. In today’s blog article, I’m going to focus on and talk all about constipation: What it is, what can cause it, what you can do to help yourself, and how a PT can help.
What is the definition of constipation?
Constipation is having a bowel movement less than 3 times per week. If you have a BM 3 times per week, you are NOT technically constipated. That being said, you may still have painful bowel movements or feel "backed up" without technically being constipated from a lack of muscle activity, tightness in certain muscles, and/or from certain dietary or lifestyle habits.
What can cause constipation?
The most common causes of constipation are poor diet and lack of exercise. A lack of dietary fiber, especially from natural sources such as vegetables and fruits, can contribute. Prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle cause weakness and sluggishness in your system as a whole, and your GI tract is no exception.
Ignoring the urge to go: If you are in public or at work and constantly ignore this urge, your body will eventually reduce its signal that you need to go. This can lead to constipation.
Chronic use of laxatives can cause constipation, especially for those of you who take them regularly with the assumption that you should have a BM at least once a day. Remember, you are not constipated if you go 3 times per week.
Certain medications can cause constipation, especially narcotic pain medications. If you’re unsure in your meds are contributing to your constipation, talk to your Pharmacist.
Other causes of constipation include specific diseases, especially neurological and GI diseases.
Tips to Help yourself when you’re dealing with constipation
Eat a well-balanced, high-fiber diet with mostly natural sources that includes beans, vegetables, and fresh fruit
Drink plenty of liquids, especially water.
Set aside time after breakfast or dinner for undisturbed visits to the toilet, even if you don’t feel you have to go.
Do not ignore the urge to go.
Understand that normal bowel habits vary and don’t panic if you don’t go daily.
When a significant or prolonged change in bowel habits occurs, check with your PCP.
Use a squatty potty! This is like a little stool to rest your feet on while you go, keeping your knees above your hips. This helps your body assume a more natural position for going. You may also use a small box or step.
Most people with mild constipation do not need laxatives. However, a doctor may recommend laxatives for a limited time for people with chronic constipation.
How can a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist help me with my constipation?
Pelvic floor physical therapy uses manual techniques, exercise programs, diet and activity modifications, and patient education to help resolve constipation. Both tight and lax pelvic floor muscles are dysfunctional and can impact bowel movements. The puborectalis muscle wraps around the rectum and must be able to relax enough to allow stool to pass but also maintain enough tension to support the rectum during defecation. This muscle may be too tight or too weak, causing problems with proper digestion. A technique called soft tissue mobilization releases connective tissue restrictions in areas surrounding that is tight or affected. Manual release of pelvic flo