Many of us women feel shy when we hear the word “constipation”, but let’s face it- it’s one of the most common conditions we deal with at some point, most especially during and after pregnancy and aging. According to research, Constipation is a prevalent condition in the United States, with typical treatment consisting of diet modification, stool softeners, and laxatives. These interventions, however, are not always effective.
Managing constipation is very imperative to be able to function well in our daily living, to live and work comfortably without any worries about our health. Some complications that can happen would be hemorrhoids and anal fissures to name a few.
But this is not to frighten you but to give you hope that constipation can also be managed by Physical Therapy and not just laxatives and other medication alone.
First off, there are two kinds of constipation. The first one – Idiopathic constipation, it is unresponsive to standard treatments such as laxatives. This type of constipation requires extensive and in-depth medical workup. The second type is Functional constipation, where the colon itself is healthy but is not working properly. There is no organic disease and mostly connected to a person’s lifestyle and dietary habits.`This constipation is common among women.
The common causes of constipation are:
- Lack of fiber intake
- Lack of physical activity
- Certain medications such as Iron supplements, antihistamines, narcotics
- High consumption of milk, cheese, gluten, colorectal problems
- How do we manage Chronic Constipation?
Your physical therapist will start with education. Educating patients with proper diet and lifestyle modification is always a part of the treatment. Constipation is managed largely with diet.
Fiber intake is a big deal, we’re talking about consuming 35 grams per day. Hydration throughout the day, the recommended amount of water intake is half your body weight in ounces. More water is needed when you add caffeinated, carbonated, or acidic foods/drinks to your diet and/or if you are doing strenuous activities.
Exercise helps and increases muscle activity especially in your intestines and peristaltic movement (wavelike movements that push the contents of the digestive tract forward) that allows for proper transit in the colon. Your doctors and physical therapist will advise you not to ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Never rush your time in the loo. Avoid distractions and feeling rushed, this will only lead to straining which might cause pelvic organ or rectal prolapses.
How pelvic floor exercises help with chronic constipation:
Ever heard of Biofeedback training? Yes, this is how your Physical Therapist helps you in managing your constipation. It is the use of devices to help you learn to relax and tighten the muscles in your pelvis. Always remember that Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles at the right time during defecation can help you pass stool more easily
Your Pelvic floor physical therapists can teach you exercises and stretches to work on any tight muscles you have at home, as well. Physical therapists can also teach you abdominal massage. Abdominal massages are taught to patients to help treat abdominal pain related to constipation and would lead to an increase in the frequency of bowel movement. It would involve some stroking and kneading on the abdomen in a consistent pattern. Additional stretches can include common yoga poses like happy baby and child’s pose; it all depends on which muscles are tight and what you need to work on.
If medications and numerous doctor visits are not enough for you to treat your problem, we hope that Physical therapy will. It’s safe, holistic and you can combine it with your existing treatment plan. Above all, it will help you feel like yourself again.
If you are experiencing chronic constipation, reach out to Dr. Monica Saliu, PT, DPT or Dr. Kristian Marcial, PT, DPT to know more about how pelvic floor exercises help with chronic constipation. Tribeca Physical Therapy is officially reopened for in-person physical therapy sessions and continues to offer Telehealth PT or Virtual PT. Call us at 2124068080 or message us and book your first session free.