Pelvic floor exercises may help constipation. Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor, which may help support bowel movements.
Issues with the pelvic floor muscles and nerves may cause constipation and other bowel problems. In some cases, pelvic floor exercises may help resolve these issues.
This article looks at how pelvic floor exercises may help ease constipation, as well as other treatment options.
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles in the pelvic area. The pelvic floor muscles sit between the hip bones in the lower abdomen.
The pelvic floor muscles and nerves help support bowel movements. Normally, the pelvic floor muscles coordinate with the muscles that open the anus to relax and make a bowel movement.
Issues with the pelvic floor may cause bowel movement problems, leading to constipation.
Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegel exercises, aim to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
People may do a range of exercises while sitting, standing, or lying down. Pelvic floor exercises may also help improve how the brain controls the pelvic floor, which may help treat symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Pelvic floor exercises may help relieve constipation. A small-scale 2022 study involving 34 people found that behavioral therapies, including pelvic floor muscle training, helped improve inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms, including constipation.
A 2018 study examined the effects of pelvic floor muscle exercises and interferential electrical stimulation (IFS) on constipation in children. The study included 90 children, ages 5–13 years, split into treatment and control groups.
The treatment group had both IFS treatment and pelvic floor exercises. The control group did pelvic floor exercises with sham stimulation. Both treatment groups led to an improvement in symptoms.
The combination of IFS and pelvic floor exercises was the most effective, with successful treatment in 88.4% of children in that group. Pelvic floor exercises with sham stimulation were successful in 43.2% of children in the control group.
According to a 2017 review, dyssynergic defecation may cause chronic constipation in some people.
Dyssynergic defecation is when the nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor do not function properly. Dyssynergic defecation causes an inability to coordinate the abdominal muscles to push and the pelvic floor muscles to relax when making a bowel movement.
According to the study, biofeedback may be more effective than pelvic floor exercises for treating chronic constipation.
Before doing pelvic floor exercises, a person needs to identify the different muscle groups to pinpoint them for the exercises. The three muscle sections are vaginal, urethral, and anal.
Here is how to identify each group:
- Vaginal: Put a finger or two fingers into the vagina. Try to squeeze the vagina’s muscles around the fingers.
- Urethral: A person can imagine urinating and stopping the flow midstream. A person should not do this while actually urinating.
- Anal: A person can squeeze the sphincter tightly, as if they are trying to stop themselves from releasing gas.
A person can do pelvic floor exercises while sitting, standing, or lying down.
If people want to try pelvic floor exercises for constipation, they can start with the following:
- Focus the attention on the pelvic floor muscles.
- Relax the abdominal muscles and breathe normally.
- Slowly lift and squeeze the pelvic floor muscles, as if trying to hold in urine or gas.
- Slowly release.
After doing the above, people can try the following exercises.
- Slowly squeeze and lift the pelvic floor muscles, and then release fully, before trying to lift and hold the muscles again.
- Hold firmly in place for 5 seconds, gradually increasing to 10 seconds.
- Keep breathing normally throughout.
- Slowly release the muscles.
- Repeat this sequence up to 10 times, relaxing for 5–10 seconds between each set.
- Squeeze and lift the muscles firmly and quickly, and then release fully.
- Repeat 10 times.
People can also squeeze and lift the muscles whenever they sneeze, cough, or clear their throat.
To begin with, people can do five or six sessions of these exercises each day. Once people feel confident with the exercises, doing three sessions each day is sufficient.
People may start to notice improvements within 4–5 weeks of consistently doing the exercises.
Other ways to relieve constipation
- increasing fiber intake
- increasing fluid intake
- getting regular exercise
- doing bowel training, in which people try to have a bowel movement at regular times, such as after eating
- using a footstool when on the toilet to help relax the muscles
- taking a fiber supplement or osmotic agent, such as milk of magnesia
- taking a laxative, stool softener, or lubricant, such as mineral oil
If constipation is severe or other treatments are ineffective, people may require a stimulant or prescription medication to relieve constipation.
If people are unsure whether they are performing pelvic floor exercises correctly, a physical therapist may be able to help.
It is best to contact a doctor if a person has persistent or severe constipation that does not respond to home treatments.
People may also wish to speak with a doctor if they have
- a family history of rectal or colon cancer
- blood in stool or from the rectum
- constant abdominal pain
- inability to pass gas
- lower back pain
- unexplained weight loss
This section answers some frequently asked questions about pelvic floor exercises and constipation.
How do you stretch your pelvic floor for constipation?
Certain stretching exercises may help relax the pelvic floor. Exercises may include breathing into the diaphragm and stretching the abductor and piriformis muscles.
Can a tight pelvic floor cause constipation?
Tight or inflexible pelvic floor muscles may also cause problems with bowel movements. This may happen if the pelvic floor is overactive or people overwork it.
Signs that a pelvic floor is too tight may include incontinence, difficulty urinating, or pain during sex.
What exercises stimulate bowel movement?
Any type of regular physical activity
Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor, which may help support healthy bowel movements and ease constipation.
Other treatments may include biofeedback or bowel training. Eating a high fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, and regular exercise also help constipation.