What are some of the common symptoms?
A medical professional’s definition of constipation tends to be different from the definition of a non-medical person. For the medical professional, constipation not only takes into account how often you go, but what does the stool look like and how difficult was it to pass. A healthy bowel movement happens at least once a day and should be smooth and soft like a snake. If you have a bowel movement once every 3 or more days then that’s constipation, no matter what the stool looks like. Also, if you have to excessively strain or push to pass your stool then you may be constipated too.
What are some of the common causes?
There usually are multiple causes for constipation. Poor diet, food allergies, decreased water intake, decreased activity level, holding it to avoid using public toilets or toilets away from home, hovering over the toilet, rushing on the toilet, scar tissue and/or fascial restriction around the intestine, tight pelvic muscles, pain with defecation, pain from tissues/fistulas or hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a “sluggish” bowel (decreased transit time of intestine) or decreased visceral motility of gastrointestinal tract.
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapists are not dieticians or nutritionists, so we can give generalized advice about diet and nutrition. Anything beyond this will need to be referred to a professional including a Nutritionist or Registered Dietician. Physical therapists can education on proper toileting posture to allow for easier bowel movements and give a basic home exercise program that has been shown to help facilitate increased intestinal activity. The majority of treatment will be manual-based to include scar mobilization (if applicable), visceral mobilization, myofascial release, connective tissue manipulation, and possible internal vaginal or rectal releases for fascia and tight pelvic musculature. Education regarding how the gastrointestinal system works will also be given.