“Pooping is a miracle!” That is what one of my colorectal physician friends told me once. And he could not have been more correct.
Many of us do not have the luxury of feeling the urge for a bowel movement, making it to bathroom on a timely manner, or sitting down and having a bowel movement without straining and bending and pushing in each and every way.
Frequency of normal bowel movement can vary from three times a day to three times a week, without any straining and with feces that looks like type 3 or 4 on the Bristol scale.
According to Black and Ford (2018), “Chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with a global prevalence of 14%. It is more common in women and its prevalence increases with age.”
Hard, pebble-like feces could be related to a slow-moving colon (slow transit), poor diet, medication, and certain diseases, to name a few. In other instances, the colon moves appropriately and constipation still exists. And then there are those people with CIC who also have dyssynergic defecation (DD). These people have difficulty passing their stool due to mechanical issues related to pelvic floor muscles, the nervous system in the area, and/or a lack of synergy between the abdominal muscles, pressure system, and pelvic floor muscles. More than half of the people who have constipation suffer from DD (Rao, Patcharatrakul, 2016).
Due to variabilities of the underlying causes that lead to symptoms of constipation and difficulty with bowel movements, it is extremely important that one does not get a generic treatment based on their symptoms (Patcharatrakul, Rao, 2018). A thorough and detailed history, review of systemic diseases, physical and digital exam, and use of imaging (anorectal manometry, ultrasound, MRI) is absolutely necessary for an accurate diagnosis and treatment protocol.
Many people with the diagnosis of DD have exhausted various common treatment protocols of using stool softener, laxatives and increasing fiber. In fact, many report having type 3 or 4 stool on the Bristol scale, once they can defecate. Their problem lies on the inability to effectively pass the feces through.
Mechanically speaking, there needs to be a sufficient amount of intra-abdominal pressure in combination with relaxation of pelvic floor muscles and postural positioning to improve the ability to have a bowel movement. With chronic constipation, this synchronized synergetic and coordinated function becomes compromised and people lose their ability to recognize the flaws in their effort to have an effective bowel movement.
Pelvic floor physical therapists have the skills to create a treatment plan that would include behavioral modifications, proper positioning, change in food and fluid intake, manual techniques, and biofeedback to re-educate individuals about proper and effective evacuation skills without straining, bleeding, and/or pain. In a study by Patcharatrakul, Valestin, Schmeltz, Schulze and Rao, from 127 subjects who had been diagnosed with DD, more than 60% improved their symptoms with biofeedback treatment (2018). Biofeedback has been proven to be more effective than the use of laxatives and other modalities without having any side effects.
If you have exhausted many treatment options or just have started your journey with difficulty with defecation seek out pelvic floor physical therapy for a consult, you too deserve a miracle!