Bowel Health and Abdominal Massage Treatment for Constipation


Bowel Health and Abdominal Massage Treatment for Constipation

Written by Karen Baxter Furno, PT, DPT

It’s time to talk openly and honestly about a topic that makes some of us feel uncomfortable –and that’s your bowel movements. Our bowel health has a big impact on our physical selves and it’s important to know the facts. Emptying your bowels easily is an important part of good bowel health and can keep the muscles that control your bowels active and strong – and it’s important for people of all ages. Here’s what you need to know.

 What is Considered Normal

  • Transit time through the colon to the sigmoid (storage) is 24-72 hours depending on what has been eaten (fatty items take longer).
  • The normal range of voiding bowels is 3-4 large, soft formed stool movements per week.
  • Stool should flow easily without discomfort. No pushing or straining is necessary to empty the rectum.
  • An urge is a signal that you feel as the sigmoid fills with stool. Delaying urges too long can result in constipation.
  • Constipation is defined as 2 or more of the following:
    • Straining at least 2.5% of defecation or BM.
    • Lumpy or hard stools at least 25% of BM.
    • Sensation of incomplete evacuation of at least 25% of BM.
    • Sensation of anorectal obstruction/blockage at least 25%.
    • Manual maneuvers to facility at least 25% of BM.
    • Fewer than 3 defecations per week.

 What are Good Bowel Habits?

 Take your time when emptying your bowel. Don’t strain or push to empty the rectum.

  • Forcing can cause hemorrhoids and further pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Consistently ignoring the urge to go may be convenient but not healthy for your bowels.
  • You may use a “Squatty Potty” or foot stool during bowel movements for better positioning. In some cases, it improves the position of your colon to prevent strain during a bowel movement.
  • Do not sit longer than 10 minutes. Get up, move around, and sit down again when the urge returns.

 Tips to Maintain Good Bowel Habits

  • Maintain a bowel diary to track how often you are going to the bathroom, how much fluid you are drinking, and how much you are bothered by urgency and leakage if present.
  • Maintain a good fluid intake. Normal fluid intake is ½ your body weight in ounces and 2/3 should be water. Space out your fluid intake and don’t drink too much at once.
  • Minimal is 6-8 cups fluid per day. Not enough fluid may result in decreased bowel motility and harder stools. Too much fluid can decrease motility as it takes up the space around the colon.
  • Limit the amount of coffee (decaf and regular), cola, chocolate or tea as they may stimulate the bowels. Herbal teas are ok to drink.
  • Limit nitrates, laxatives, certain spices, lactose, alcohol, & caffeine which may cause loose stools.
  • Avoid constipation by maintaining a balanced diet of dietary fiber.
    • Insoluble Fiber: moves bulk through the intestines, promotes regular bowel movement, and prevents constipation. Examples: whole-wheat products, corn bran, flax seeds & other seeds, green beans, cauliflower, potato skins, popcorn, brown rice, fruit and root vegetable skins.
    • Soluble Fiber: binds with fatty acids and prolongs stomach emptying time so that the sugar is released and absorbed more slowly. Examples: Oat/oat bran, dried beans & peas, nuts, barley, flax & other seeds, oranges, pears, peaches, apples, carrots, psyllium husk, prunes.

Abdominal/Colon Massage Treatment for Constipation

 Most people find constipation relief by drinking more water, getting more fiber in their diet, and exercising more often. Another technique to try is a self-colon massage or abdominal massage to ease some of your symptoms.

  1. Start with fingertips or 4” ball at the inside of bony region in lower abdomen on right side.
  2. Make gentle to light pressure circles in a slow manner in direction of arrows shown below. *This movement should take >1 minute of continuous flow.
  3. Perform self-massage for 3-5 minutes each day and/or with bowel movements.

Note: Reference to “bony prominences” in the image above, are the areas of bone that are close to the skin’s surface.

If you, family member or friend are concerned about their bowel health, have issues with constipation or have questions about abdominal massages, a pelvic health specialist at Professional Physical Therapy can help. Our physical therapists who work specifically with the pelvic floor have an in-depth understanding of abdominal and pelvic health. Visit us at Professional Physical Therapy.

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