American Physical
Therapy Association

Section on Women's Health
American Physical
Therapy Association

Commonly Treated Conditions- Bowel Dysfunction

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence is the involuntary loss of feces through an inability to prevent its passage; or through the inability to differentiate between the presence of feces or gas. This condition is physically and psychologically disabling and is a significant social and public health issue.

Rectal Prolapse

Rectal prolapse is a “falling down” of the rectum. This may result in feeling as if something is “falling out”, pain or pressure in the rectal or vaginal area, fecal incontinence, feelings of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement, and a decreased tolerance for normal daily activities or exercise. Symptoms may worsen with coughing and sneezing as with a cold or allergies, or constipation.

Women are more likely to have rectal prolapse than men, secondary to trauma from labor and delivery. However, there are just as many women who develop this condition with advancing age who have never had any children. Men usually develop rectal prolapse before 40 years of age.


Chronic constipation can have many causes that will require the skilled care of a physician to further evaluate, but with a team approach including a physical therapist, the overall outcome may be much better.

A contributing cause of constipation can be tight, non-relaxing pelvic floor muscles that result in an individual straining to pass stool. That chronic straining is detrimental to the pelvic floor muscles and can cause feelings of pain, incomplete emptying, and worsen hemorrhoids or pelvic organ prolapse.

Biofeedback is a useful tool that promotes patient awareness of how to relax the pelvic floor muscles with appropriate positioning on the toilet. Adequate fluid intake, diet and consistent toileting times with abdominal massage techniques to speed intestinal action can improve symptoms.

How Does Physical Therapy Help?

•  It can help by teaching you how to strengthen and improve coordination of weakened pelvic floor and abdominal muscles using biofeedback equipment and real-time rehabilitative ultrasound imaging .

•  Education to appropriately manage your symptoms through a well rounded home program that might include exercises for strengthening, stretching, diet and fluid modifications, relaxation strategies and more.

Personal Physical Therapy Services Phone 540-450-0680 • Fax: 540-450-0681 • Email: