Exercises designed to strengthen your pelvic floor may help treat some cases of chronic constipation.

Chronic constipation is a common digestive issue that can significantly affect your quality of life.

While traditional treatments often focus on medications and lifestyle strategies, there’s a growing interest in holistic alternatives that tap into your body’s innate ability to heal.

Pelvic floor therapy has emerged as a promising approach for managing constipation by addressing the underlying muscular and functional issues of your pelvic floor.

Pelvic floor therapy, also known as pelvic floor physical therapy, is a specialized form of physical therapy focused on the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues in the pelvic region.

It aims to address various conditions and dysfunctions related to the pelvic floor, such as pelvic pain, urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and chronic constipation.

During pelvic floor therapy, a trained therapist will assess the condition of your pelvic floor muscles and identify any areas of weakness, tightness, or imbalance. They will then develop a personalized treatment plan to address these issues.

Treatment may involve exercises to strengthen or relax your pelvic floor muscles, manual techniques to release tension or improve muscle coordination, biofeedback to provide real-time feedback on muscle activity, and education on proper bladder and bowel habits.

Pelvic floor therapy can be beneficial if you’re experiencing constipation. Your pelvic floor muscles play an important role in bowel function, including controlling the passage of stool.

Pelvic floor therapy can help identify and address any imbalances, tension, or weakness in your pelvic floor muscles that may be contributing to constipation.

Through targeted exercises, relaxation techniques, and other therapeutic approaches, pelvic floor therapy can help improve bowel function, relieve constipation, and promote overall pelvic health.

Common symptoms of constipation include:

  • infrequent bowel movements (fewer than three bowel movements per week)
  • straining
  • hard or lumpy stools
  • incomplete evacuation (feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bowels after a bowel movement)
  • abdominal discomfort
  • a feeling of rectal blockage

Research suggests that pelvic floor dysfunction, which can include pelvic weakness, affects chronic constipation and the ability to defecate.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition in which the muscles and tissues of your pelvic floor, which support the organs in your pelvis, don’t function properly.

Weakening or impairment of these muscles can lead to difficulties in the coordination and relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles during bowel movements. This can result in incomplete emptying of your bowels and contribute to constipation.

However, constipation isn’t always a symptom of a weak pelvic floor. The following factors also contribute to constipation:

  • disruptions in your gut microbiome
  • certain medications or supplements, such as opioid pain medications and iron supplements
  • colonic sensorimotor disturbances (problems with movement and sensation in your colon)
  • inadequate consumption of calories or fiber
  • structural problems in your digestive tract

Is there physical therapy for constipation?

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on addressing pelvic floor dysfunction, which can contribute to constipation. Pelvic floor physical therapy involves assessing and treating any issues with the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues in your pelvic region.

By addressing the underlying pelvic floor issues, physical therapy can help relieve constipation symptoms and promote better bowel function.

Here are a few at-home pelvic floor exercises that may help with constipation:

  • Kegel exercises: Contract and hold the muscles of your pelvic floor for a few seconds, then release. Repeat this contraction and relaxation pattern several times.
  • Squatting exercises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lower yourself into a squatting position. You can use a chair for support if needed. Squatting helps relax and open your pelvic area, which can help with bowel movements.
  • Pelvic tilts: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Gently tilt your pelvis upward, pressing your lower back into the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then release.

You may also want to try diaphragmatic breathing to improve coordination and decrease straining.

To perform diaphragmatic breathing, relax in a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting up. Put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest, and then inhale through your nose. Your stomach should expand while your chest remains still. Breathe in for 2–3 counts, and then slowly exhale. Repeat.

Pelvic massage to relieve constipation

Pelvic massage, also known as abdominal massage or visceral manipulation, is a therapeutic technique that involves gentle manipulation of your abdominal and pelvic area. It aims to release tension, improve circulation, and promote proper functioning of the organs in your pelvic region.

Some evidence suggests that massage, especially “ILU” abdominal massage, may have a positive effect on chronic constipation and could potentially improve symptoms. However, there is still controversy surrounding its effectiveness and safety, and more research is currently being conducted.

Pelvic floor therapy offers a natural and nonpharmacological approach to addressing constipation. It focuses on improving the function and coordination of your pelvic floor muscles, which play a vital role in bowel movements.

Through approaches such as exercises, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback, pelvic floor therapy aims to restore optimal muscle function and promote regular and comfortable bowel movements without relying on medication or invasive procedures.