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The Link Between Urinary Incontinence and Constipation

By Amber Langel, Physical Therapist

Do you have urinary incontinence? Do you struggle with having regular bowel movements and feel constipated? Do you sometimes think when you struggle with bowel movement that your urinary leakage is worse?

Urinary incontinence can be caused by many factors, with one of the main contributors being constipation. Constipation is when someone passes less than 3 bowel movements per week or has difficulty with bowel movements. Constipation is discussed very frequently with patients because the enlarged colon (which is the result of constipation) places more pressure onto the bladder, which can make incontinence and urgency (feeling like you have to go NOW) worse. There are several ways to help constipation. Let’s talk about one of those ways- adjusting how you sit while you have a bowel movement.

Unfortunately, our toilets are not designed to help us have easy bowel movements. Instead, they actually cause our puborectalis muscle to tense. This muscle slings around the rectum, and its job is to keep stool in, but it also needs to be able to relax to let stool out.

So what can you do to help relax that muscle, thus helping you to have easier bowel movements? Sitting with your feet propped on a foot stool brings your knees slightly above your hips, which then places the puborectalis muscle in a lengthened position and allows for less tension on the rectum.

You can also sit with your back straight, elbows resting on knees, and continue to breathe evenly and avoid holding your breath. Do not sit longer than 10-15 minutes and do not strain to push out stool.

If you are struggling with either of these issues, we want you to know you don’t have to. We can help you. Pelvic Health Physical Therapy offers more adjustments to daily living, treatments, and exercise that can help improve pelvic function. Call the Orthopedic Institute at 608.342.4748 if you have questions about pelvic health physical therapy or to schedule an appointment.

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