Constipation is an extremely bothersome concern for many people! Around 10-15% of adults experience chronic constipation. It can cause long term stress and strain on the pelvic floor, so it’s often a big part of the conversation when we talk about pelvic health! Understanding and addressing constipation can make a big difference in managing urinary leaking, pelvic organ prolapse, and reducing risk of future issues.
What causes constipation?
Constipation sometimes – but not always – has a clear cause. In general, constipation falls into one of these categories:
- Hard and infrequent stool
- Difficulty passing stool due to issues with the pelvic floor support and/or muscle coordination
- Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C)
- Constipation as a side effect of medications
How can pelvic physical therapy help?
- Diet – While pelvic PTs are not specifically nutrition professionals, we do know our stuff when it comes to the influence of diet on constipation! Addressing fiber and water intake, as well as the timing of your meals, can have a big impact on bowel function. We can also discuss helpful over the counter supplement options to support bowel health.
- Lifestyle – Sleep, exercise, and stress management can all affect how our bowels work. When our body can’t adequately rest and recover, we can develop issues with constipation! A pelvic PT can help you identify and address the important factors for you.
- Bowel habits – Most of us were never taught “how to go!” People with constipation will frequently strain and use techniques for having a bowel movement that aren’t very helpful. A pelvic PT can help you find your best posture and strategy for breathing and bearing down efficiently.
- Pelvic floor muscle factors – Sometimes there is insufficient resistance from the pelvic floor to support bowel movements. Pelvic floor muscle strengthening and supportive strategies as taught by a pelvic PT can address this contributor. Others have difficulty coordinating their pelvic floor to effectively pass stool, and end up contracting when they should be relaxing. A skilled pelvic PT works with clients to improve their coordination to reduce constipation. For many people, it helps to get started by learning how to do a pelvic floor contraction. Check out our article here!
Constipation that results from IBS-C and use of medications should be managed in partnership with your doctor. Pelvic physical therapy can also often help with the strategies listed above to address lifestyle factors and bowel habits for these situations as well!