Get the Healthy Scoop on Poop

posted by Rachel Hoffman and Sarah Goodchild on Thursday, May 23, 2019

Pooping can be a tough topic to discuss, even with a health professional. We understand the subject can be gross or embarrassing, yet the “scoop on poop” is that bowel problems can really impact many people’s lives. 

Problems range from people who have difficulty evacuating their bowels to the opposite concern, or difficulty controlling their bowel movements and everything in between. There are multiple reasons for these health concerns and many reasons the first person you should contact is your medical provider to ensure there is not something more involved. Here’s a quick overview of some of the reasons you may have problems with bowel movements and ways physical therapy can help.

Constipation: Many medical conditions can lead to constipation. One of the most common conditions we treat with physical therapy is dyssynergic defecation. This is a condition with constipation where a person’s muscles are not working together to allow a person to have a bowel movement but are actually working against you. The muscles should work together to open and allow stool to pass through the bowel. In this case, however, the muscles will contract and fight stool from coming out. It has been found up to 40% of people with constipation have this problem. Factors that can contribute to this include pregnancy, traumatic injury, low back pain, history of abuse or trauma, or poor behavioral habits. Symptoms include straining to have a bowel movement, incomplete emptying with a bowel movement, bloating or hard stools.

Fecal Incontinence: this is a problem where unwanted stool in solid, liquid or gas form exits the anal opening. It is estimated this concern is prevalent for 8.3 percent of the U.S. population and is a concern which increases with age. Fecal incontinence can obviously affect people socially and cause a lot of social anxiety. Now, many factors can attribute to this issue including medication, diet, alcohol use, medications and gut mobility disorders. It may be also caused by weakness in the pelvic floor musculature, chronic constipation, rectal prolapse or nerve dysfunction, as well as scarring or prior trauma or surgeries.

Here’s how PT can help: First, you should discuss with your physician your symptoms to ensure no further testing or medical issues are occurring, and then contact us, your local Pelvic Physical Therapists. We can perform an assessment to evaluate the benefits of PT and further treatment options. Treatment is based on each individual, and may include the following:

  • Retraining the pelvic floor muscles to improve firing ability or learn to relax,
  • Establishment of home exercise program,
  • Education on proper bowel habits including diet, bowel routine and proper toileting positions,
  • Manual techniques to address any tissue restrictions through the abdomen and pelvic floor. Tissue restrictions many include scar tissue from prior surgeries or injuries, adhesions, trigger points and/or tender points.

Remember, your pelvic floor physical therapy team can evaluate and treat a wide range of diagnoses including urinary incontinence, urinary urgency and frequency, bowel incontinence and constipation, prolapse, pelvic pain or pain with intercourse or bowel movements, painful C-section scars and diastasis rectus abdominis, male pelvic pain or incontinence, pregnancy related pain symptoms and prior to or after abdominal or pelvic surgeries including prostatectomy.

Contact us: Sarah Goodchild and Rachel Hoffman are Doctors of Physical Therapy who have extended training in pelvic health for both men and women. They can be reached at Spencer Hospital Rehabilitation Services: 712-264-6189 for further questions, to schedule an appointment or discuss a physician referral.

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About The Author

Rachel Hoffman and Sarah Goodchild

Rachel and Sarah are Physical Therapists at the Spencer Hospital. Rachel has worked here since 2014 and Sarah since 2010. Rachel received her Bachelor’s degree from Drake University and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of Iowa. Sarah received her Bachelor’s degree f ... read more