Easing Constipation with Kegel Exercises
Constipation can be an occasional annoyance or a chronic problem. It’s the latter of these—chronic constipation—that is particularly problematic. Sitting on the porcelain throne hour after hour can cause a range of problems, including hemorrhoids, which—ask anyone who’s had them—are pretty miserable.
More importantly, excessive straining from constipation can damage the pelvic floor muscles, the hammock-like system of muscles that keeps our lower organs (uterus, bladder, urethra, vagina, and rectum) firmly in place.
A weakened pelvic floor can make constipation worse since these muscles are responsible for opening and closing the sphincter. Weak pelvic floor muscles can also lead to problems with bladder leakage and painful sex. This is why it’s so important to get constipation under control.
If you’re having fewer than three bowel movements a week, you’re likely constipated. Constipation can also mean having bowel movements that contain dry, hard stools that may be difficult or painful to pass, or incomplete evacuation. There are a few types of constipation; they include:
- Atonic constipation, resulting from reduced muscle tone of the colon, abdominal wall, or pelvic floor. It can be caused by weak pelvic floor muscles (common in women after childbirth), loose rectal muscles (common in seniors), lifestyle habits like a lack of exercise, eating a low-fiber diet, not responding to the urge to go, and overuse of laxatives, which can result in a “lazy” colon that doesn’t properly react to stimuli.
- Spastic constipation, resulting from colon spasms triggered by stress, certain foods, or certain medications. Known as constipation-dominated irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C), symptoms include constipation, bloating, cramps, and occasional diarrhea.
- Obstructive constipation, which results from an obstruction in the passage of stool. Causes can include pelvic organ prolapse (POP), tumors, cystic fibrosis (in children), scars after abdominal surgery or from damage from inflammation (often associated with Crohn’s disease), adhesions, or damaged nerves that prevent relaxation of the anal muscles.
Most of us experience constipation at some point in our lives, but how do you know if you have chronic constipation? Medical professionals define it as difficulty with defecation for more than 12 weeks (not necessarily consecutive) with the following symptoms:
- A feeling of incomplete evacuation
- A feeling of obstruction in the last part of the colon (the rectum)
Chronic constipation is surprisingly common, affecting as many as one in five people.1 It affects people of all ages, but it’s more common in women than men.
Kegels Strengthen Muscles to Reduce Constipation
Kegel exercises can help with the first of these—atonic constipation. They can also help reduce constipation caused by mild pelvic organ prolapse, which is when an organ in your pelvic area, such as your uterus or bladder, slips from its normal position and presses against the vagina or rectum.
Doing Kegels can increase the range of motion of your pelvic floor muscles, which can make it easier to have a bowel movement. It makes sense—all of the muscles in our body suffer when they don’t get proper exercise, and our pelvic floor muscles are no different. In addition to staying physically active, eating enough fiber, drinking plenty of fluids, and managing stress, do your Kegels!
Even those without constipation problems should be doing Kegel exercises to help prevent bladder leakage, which a surprising one in three women will experience at some point in her life.
PeriCoach can help you exercise your pelvic floor muscles effectively. An insertable Kegel biofeedback device outfitted with sensors that detect when you squeeze against it, PeriCoach pairs with your smartphone so you can see your muscles working in real time! Get constipation and bladder leakage under control with the help of PeriCoach—learn more about how it works.