When people think of irritable bowel syndrome they don’t usually think of physical therapy. However, physical therapy can be effective for people with this condition.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be diarrhea predominant (IBS-D), constipation predominant (IBS-C), or a combination. When a person has symptoms of diarrhea and fecal urgency, or fecal incontinence (loss of stool) she may tend to keep squeezing and contracting her pelvic floor muscles so that she doesn’t have an accident. Too much contraction and tension in the pelvic floor muscles can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) including muscle weakness and muscle spasm.
On the other hand, a person who is IBS constipation predominant may have difficulty evacuating his bowels. In this case, he may strain but still not effectively empty. For some people, difficulty relaxing the pelvic floor muscles contributes to this type of constipation. Instead of the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles relaxing when they are supposed to, the muscles actually contract instead. This is called a “paradoxical contraction” or “dyssynergia” of the pelvic floor muscles. In either case, the person is usually not aware of the dysfunction of these muscles that contributes to his or her symptoms.
Physical therapy can help.
Pelvic health physical therapists are specially trained to evaluate the function of the pelvic floor muscles, and to diagnose pelvic floor dysfunction. People with fecal urgency and diarrhea who have developed weak muscles and muscle spasms can benefit from treatment to learn how to correctly contract and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor. People with constipation who have overactive and poorly relaxing pelvic floor muscles may benefit from physical therapy to learn how to correctly relax the muscles during a bowel movement, and achieve more effective emptying.
Pelvic health physical therapists work with people with pelvic floor dysfunction, including people with IBS, to train the musculoskeletal system of the abdominal wall and the pelvic floor to function optimally to keep the bowels running. Treatment includes surface electromyography (sEMG) biofeedback, which is especially useful for identifying the correct pelvic floor muscle contraction, and learning how to contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles effectively. Physical therapy treatment for IBS related pelvic floor dysfunction also includes education and practice in optimal postures for defecation, techniques for controlling fecal urgency and frequency, exercises to improve blood flow to the gastrointestinal system, electrical stimulation to improve nerve and muscle function, and techniques to massage the abdomen to simulate the movement bowels.
Do you have further questions or concerns? We would be more than happy to help you! The best way to contact us is through FYZICAL First. This way, you will receive response from a Doctor of Physical Therapy in 24hrs! We will also schedule you for a free in person consultation.