Article by Nadine Stewart


What is Constipation?

Constipation is the infrequent ability to empty your bowels. This generally occurs as the stool (faeces / poo) is often hard and dry and as a result can be difficult to pass.

What Causes Constipation?

Many factors can lead to constipation, including:

Lifestyle factors:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not eating enough fibre / a change in diet
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Delaying having a bowel movement
  • Change in daily routine
  • Stress
  • Age

Medical / Physiological and Psychological Factors:

  • Metal health conditions, e.g. anxiety and depression
  • Medical conditions that affect the nervous system, e.g. Parkinson’s disease or MS
  • Medical conditions that affect the endocrine system, e.g. diabetes or hypothyroidism
  • Medical conditions that affect the digestive system, e.g. IBS
  • Blockage or obstruction of the colon/rectum, e.g. tumour, haemorrhoids, prolapse
  • The slow movement of the faeces through the colon
  • Injury to the pelvic floor, abdomen or anus
  • Surgery
  • Stress
  • Obesity / overweight
  • Some medications
  • Long term use of laxatives
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal change
  • Illness
  • Reduced mobility

What are the Symptoms of Constipation?

The symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Decreased frequency of passing a bowel movement (two or less every week)
  • Difficulty passing a bowel movement if the stool is hard and dry
  • Needing to push and strain to assist with passing a bowel movement
  • Taking longer than a couple of minutes to pass a bowel movement
  • A feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowel
  • Abdominal pain and bloating

How Is Constipation Diagnosed?

Usually, a clinical diagnosis can be made using your information based on your medical history, toileting habits, and lifestyle (diet, fluid ingestion, medication, and exercise). Occasionally a physical exam may need to be performed. During this examination, your physiotherapist may need to complete an internal exam to assess the position of the organs in the pelvic cavity and the strength and ability of the pelvic floor muscles to activate and coordinate correctly. If further information is required, your doctor can perform other tests and investigations, including using a bowel diary, imaging, e.g. x-rays, colonoscopy. Sigmoidoscopy, as well as other anorectal and colorectal tests. However, these tests will only be performed if required based on your presentation.

Treatments For Constipation?

There are many treatments for constipation that physiotherapy can achieve. These treatments can include:

  • Education
  • Diet recommendations regarding fibre intake
  • Recommendations regarding water / fluid consumption
  • Recommendations regarding exercise
  • Pelvic floor exercise program
  • Adjustment of usual toileting habits
  • The addition of stool softeners
  • Splinting

Other Treatments:

A large proportion of people with constipation will have their symptoms improved or resolved with physiotherapy treatment. However, depending on the cause of your constipation, you may also need to follow up with your doctor for additional treatment if required, including:

  • Medications review/ prescription (including some laxatives)
  • Medical treatment for conditions that may put you at risk of constipation
  • Enemas and suppositories

Your physiotherapist will work closely with your doctor to ensure the best possible treatment outcome for you.

What Results Can You Expect?

A large proportion of people with constipation will have their symptoms improved or resolved by adjusting lifestyle factors through physiotherapy treatment. However, if left untreated, the problem worsens gradually and may affect other areas, including the pelvic floor and bladder.

Will You Need Surgery?

There is a percentage of people who may not experience enough improvement with physiotherapy treatment alone. This often depends on the underlying cause of constipation, and as a result, they may need to have surgery to resolve their symptoms.

For more information please consult your physiotherapist with a special interest in pelvic floor conditions.

Related Articles

  1. Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy – Learn how physiotherapy can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which may improve bowel movements and reduce symptoms of constipation.
  2. Women’ss Health Physiotherapy – Addressing a diverse range of women-specific concerns, Women’s Health Physiotherapy focuses on assessing and treating various conditions.
  3. Men’s Health Physiotherapy – Men’s health physiotherapy plays a vital role in the holistic care of male health and is backed by high-quality research to assist men with improving and recovering from many male-specific conditions.
  4. Exercise Advice for Chronic Conditions – Find out how regular physical activity can help manage constipation and improve overall digestive health.
  5. Lifestyle Changes for Managing Chronic Pain – Understand how lifestyle adjustments can alleviate chronic pain and potentially improve bowel movements in constipated individuals.
  6. Post-Surgery Physiotherapy – Find out how physiotherapy can assist in recovery from surgeries that might affect the bowel, potentially leading to constipation.

Article by Nadine Stewart

Women's Health Physiotherapy Conditions

Addressing a diverse range of women-specific concerns, Women’s Health Physiotherapy focuses on assessing and treating various conditions. These encompass issues like constipation, faecal incontinence, mastitis, pelvic floor exercises, pregnancy-related back pain, and massages, along with concerns such as prolapse, abdominal separation, stress incontinence, and underactive pelvic floor. Moreover, the discipline encompasses managing urge faecal incontinence, urgency/overactive bladder (OAB), and urge incontinence, while also offering pre and post-pregnancy exercise prescription and rehabilitation.

More Information


Women's Health Physiotherapy Appointment FAQs

Women's Health Conditions

Women’s Health Physiotherapy incorporates the assessment and treatment of a large number of women-specific conditions including:

Q: What Should You Bring To Your Women's Health Appointment?

A: Please bring any information about your condition from your GP, medical specialists, or other healthcare providers to your appointment. Arrive 10 minutes early to complete paperwork. Alternatively, we can email you information before your appointment.

Q: What's the Appropriate Attire for Your Appointment?

A: Wear comfortable clothing for ease of movement.

Q: Will Your Appointment Information Be Kept Confidential?

A: Yes, your appointment details remain confidential. Your physiotherapist will only share with other healthcare providers if you consent. Appointments are held in private rooms for confidentiality. An exception is rectus diastasis, which may be treated in a separate area if requested.

Q: How Long Does the Appointment Last?

A: The appointment duration varies based on your condition. Initial women's health appointments usually take an hour. Mastitis and rectus diastasis appointments are typically 30 to 40 minutes. Contact our receptionist for specific details.

Q: What's the Cost of Women's Health Physiotherapy Appointment?

A: Session costs vary depending on your condition. Contact our reception for more information.

Q: Can You Claim Women's Health Physiotherapy Under Private Health Insurance?

A: Yes, bring your private health insurance card for on-the-spot claim processing.

Q: Is Your Appointment Covered by EPC/Medicare Referral?

A: Yes, we accept GP referrals under EPC guidelines. A gap payment is required after applying the Medicare rebate due to extended consultation time with your women's health physiotherapist. Contact our reception for details.