While I fully expect to be at the “butt end” of many comments for this column, I feel compelled to address this topic at the request of several patients. It seems that many geriatric physical therapists commonly encounter patients that suffer from constipation which limits their participation in rehabilitation. Ironically, research demonstrates that exercise and activity actually help relieve constipation.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) reports that 3.1 million people in the United States suffer from constipation. They further report that this problem leads to almost 400,000 hospitalizations, 1.4 million visits to emergency rooms, 1 million prescriptions and 121 deaths each year. Constipation is defined by the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine as three or less bowel movements per week. It is also estimated that more than 27 percent of the elderly are affected.
Severe constipation can result in immediate medical attention in some cases due to intestinal obstruction. In addition to infrequent bowel movements, some symptoms include: feeling poorly, weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal distention and/or pain, and vomiting.
Physical activity is one of the most important factors in preventing constipation. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days per week helps significantly. However, if age and poor health limit activity, then frequent, short bouts of mobility and exercise are recommended. It is critical for this population to work on transfers from chair or bed to stand to maintain strength and mobility.
Fruits, vegetables, and bran are essential. With a physician’s approval, supplements such as Metamucil or Citrucel can be helpful. Stool softeners, suppositories or enemas may also be worth discussing with your doctor.
Healthy people must continue to keep active. Get into good exercise habits at a young age and continue through life. Maintaining a consistent schedule of eating and exercise is also helpful. Some simple suggestions for beginning an exercise program for prevention of constipation in the healthy population are:
Depending on your general health and ambulatory status, these endurance exercises may be appropriate for you. Therefore, consider one or two of the following as a good starting point:
IN CONCLUSION: KEEP MOVING YOUR BODY AND YOU WILL KEEP MOVING YOUR BOWELS!
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.
Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!
NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: email@example.com
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an affiliated faculty member at the University of Scranton, PT Dept.