Constipation is defined as a condition in which stool is infrequent or difficult to pass. This condition is very common, affecting up to 30% of people. As a person ages and becomes elderly, constipation is estimated at up to 75%. In the United States, $250 million is spent on medications to help ease this condition.
Constipation can make a person very uncomfortable, as it is associated with other symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating. Chronic constipation can lead to hemorrhoids, anal fissure, fecal impaction, or bowel obstruction. Normal bowel movement frequency for an adult ranges from multiple BM’s a day to every 3 days. The consistency of normal stool, according to the Bristol Stool chart should be type 4 which is soft and easily passed.
Causes of constipation vary. This can include slow intestinal motility, dehydration, hypothyroidism, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease. Constipation can also be caused by certain medications like opioids, hypertension medications, or diuretics. Lastly, constipation can be caused by pelvic floor dysfunction. This is the cause that can be helped with physical therapy!
The pelvic floor is made up of a group of 3 muscles, the puborectalis, pubococcygeus, and iliococcygeus. The puborectalis muscle is a skeletal muscle that slings around the rectum and helps to maintain the normal colorectal angle. This is helpful for continence, or the ability to hold feces. However, if this muscle is in spasm or hypertonic and it cannot relax easily, the colon remains kinked or angled and stool is not easily eliminated.
The physical therapists at Anderson Physical Therapy Associates specialize in disorders of the pelvic floor. We can help you with constipation by providing counseling on fluid intake, nutrition, and optimal positioning for bowel movements. We are also skilled at assessing the tone and function of the pelvic floor muscles. If we find that the puborectalis is tightened or in spasm, we can provide manual treatment to release the muscle and teach you how to relax it in order to achieve more complete bowel movements.