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Constipation is a very common condition that affects people of all ages, from children right through to elderly people, however older people are five times more likely to suffer from it. In addition, women are twice as likely to be affected, with 40% of pregnant women experiencing constipation during pregnancy. Constipation can present in a number of ways, causing some to have difficulty emptying their bowels while others may experience infrequent bowel movements. The severity of constipation can vary greatly. Many only experience it for a short period of time and can resolve the issue with lifestyle changes, while others can suffer from chronic constipation for years, affecting their overall health.
While there is rarely one definitive answer to why someone suffers from constipation, there are a number of factors that can increase a person’s likelihood:
Making lifestyle changes to address any of the above risk factors should rectify the problem and help relieve many peoples constipation. However if that fails, and in cases of chronic constipation, the source of the problem is more likely to be poor bowel mechanics due to pelvic floor dysfunction. When the pelvic floor issues are addressed and treated, bowel function will improve.
The pelvic floor muscles provide support to the pelvic organs, and control an individual’s bladder and bowel movements. During bowel movements, the pelvic floor muscles relax to allow the passage of stools. However with some people who suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, the pelvic floor muscles contract instead of relax while attempting to empty the bowels. And it is this paradoxical muscle pattern that halts the process and causes constipation.
The good news is that this poor muscle co-ordination between the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles can be treated. Simply retraining those muscles to function the way they are meant to can help overcome constipation. A manual therapy approach can help release the tight pelvic floor muscles through a specific exercise and stretching program. In addition physiotherapy can teach a person how to contract the pelvic floor muscles properly and teach cuing in order to relax muscles during bowel movements. Aside from just working on the floor, a pelvic floor physiotherapist can work on abdominal massage to help with transit of stool. This technique has been shown to help manage abdominal pain associated with constipation and increase frequency of bowel movements. A physiotherapist can also provide general advice and guidance on diet alterations and positions for toileting that may make bowel movements easier and more comfortable.
Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, our clinic director, Aileen MaGuire is a specifically trained expert in the area of bowel and bladder problems for both male and female patients. She can help you address your concerns and will work with you through tailored programmes to help relieve symptoms. If you wish to book an appointment or have any questions regarding constipation or pelvic floor dysfunction, contact us here.