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Secret Weapon Against Constipation
Photo: Stocksy/ Raymond Forbes LLC
Gabrielle Kassel of the website Well + Good reached out to me for some tips on avoiding constipation and alleviating its symptoms when it does occur. In short, we discussed how your pelvic floor can be a secret weapon against constipation. Here is a brief synopsis of the article along with a link to the full article below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Looking for a Secret Weapon Against Constipation?

Look to Your Pelvic Floor.

Constipation can be physically uncomfortable, but it can also be downright frustrating. Whether factors like dietary habits, dehydration, or stress trigger your constipation, it can be tempting to fight it by forcing a bowel movement. Straining, however, isn't a great idea. It's not super effective, and it can increase your risk of anal fissures and prolapse.

Instead, a key to relieving constipation might actually involve relaxing your pelvic floor.

For the uninitiated, your pelvic floor is a hammock-like group of muscles resting in your pelvis that support your organs and control how and when you go to the restroom, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your pelvic floor muscles need to relax and release to expel poop, says Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, a pelvic floor therapist and Femina PT. Relaxation allows the anal sphincter muscle to open, so you're able to have a bowel movement.

Yes, straining and squeezing the muscles you use for the bathroom (like the sphincter, lower diaphragm, and core) can sometimes help get things moving, but it can also make you tighten your muscles, which in turn makes it harder to pass stool, Dr. Jeffcoat says. So, to help you relax your pelvic floor, Dr. Jeffcoat offers the following suggestions:

1. Practice deep breathing before, during, and after

Deep breathing is one of the primary exercises Dr. Jeffcoat recommends if you're sitting on the toilet with no luck. To start: Inhale slowly and feel your rib cage expand, then gently exhale, Dr. Jeffcoat says.

Repeat this a few times; with each breath, think about inhaling all the way down into your pelvic floor. Both your diaphragm and your pelvic floor should drop and lengthen as you inhale."

Dr. Jeffcoat recommends you start doing this before you're in the bathroom; stage fright is a real thing. Continue breathing when you're in the bathroom, but she adds that if you don't go within 5 minutes, it's a good idea to try again later.

2. Try not to sit on the toilet for too long

It can be upsetting when time passes, and you're just not going. Instead of sitting there, grab some water, eat fiber-rich food, and try gentle movement like walking before attempting to go again. If you're dealing with frequent consipation, Dr. Jeffocat recommends meeting with a nutritionist or dietician to find a diet that alleviates your symptoms.

For more tips on how your pelvic floor is your secret weapon against constipation, click here to continue to the full article.

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What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by J.B.

My husband and I were having problems with painful intercourse. My therapist recommended that I go and get a pelvic floor evaluation from a physical therapist. Having never been treated by a physical therapist, I wondered how this really was going to help me. My husband who is a physician was very supportive and agreed that a PT evaluation would be a great idea. So i made the appointment and was blown away by what I learned. I had no idea that pelvic floor muscles could get tight and have trigger points just like any other muscle in the body. I'm a massage therapist and very familiar with tight muscles, and this new thought really amazed me. Heather's program to help relax and strengthen these muscles made such a difference. I can say that I am 100% pain free during intercourse now. Yippee! Going to the PT appointments and doing the at-home exercises was definitely a discipline, but it's 100% worth it! The rewards are amazing.

-- J.B.

Testimonial by A.W., age 32

I wanted to let you know that my pelvic floor held strong and gave me no trouble whatsoever in my trail race this morning (12 miles)! In a way, I felt like I ran better than ever because my core feels so rock solid from all the exercises you have me doing. That was especially valuable on the technical downhill - I just flew down the trail because I had confidence in my balance and form. Thank you for helping me get back to doing what I love.

-- A.W., age 32
(completed Post-partum Renewal Program using the InTone biofeedback/stim unit)

Testimonial by J.B.

My husband and I were having problems with painful intercourse. My therapist recommended that I go and get a pelvic floor evaluation from a physical therapist. Having never been treated by a physical therapist, I wondered how this really was going to help me. My husband who is a physician was very supportive and agreed that a PT evaluation would be a great idea. So i made the appointment and was blown away by what I learned. I had no idea that pelvic floor muscles could get tight and have trigger points just like any other muscle in the body. I'm a massage therapist and very familiar with tight muscles, and this new thought really amazed me. Heather's program to help relax and strengthen these muscles made such a difference. I can say that I am 100% pain free during intercourse now. Yippee! Going to the PT appointments and doing the at-home exercises was definitely a discipline, but it's 100% worth it! The rewards are amazing.

-- J.B.

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by J.H.

My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs trying to heal and move on with my life. When I became pregnant and the hormone relaxin that “relaxes” all the joints of the body and the additional weight gain erased all my progress and I was suddenly in a lot of pain again. My OB sent me to Heather for one last try.

Read more: Testimonial by J.H.

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