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Fecal Follies – Why Leaking Stool Happens and How PT Can Help

I have a friend that recently confided in me that she has had a long fight with losing stool accidently.  She said that she had talked to her doctor but that he was not sure where to turn.  I was so thankful that she trusted me to tell me her concerns.
 
Leaking stool is embarrassing and few people even feel comfortable enough to confide this concern with their doctors, let along anyone else.  I want people to take heart and know that physical therapy can be a huge help in puzzling out the root cause of why someone is leaking stool and looking at management and prevention tools.
 
There are many things that can lead to leaking stool. These can be varied, from a large tear with delivering a baby, to colo-rectal cancer treatments, to chronic bowel problems – including diarrhea or constipation.  All of these can change the muscle strength and endurance of the pelvic floor that helps to support the rectum and prevent leaking.  After cancer treatment or a large tear with delivery there can be significant scar tissue, or tissue changes that make it difficult to sense the need to have a bowel movement or to close the anal canal to prevent leakage.
 
Physical therapy is an important piece in making sure that the pelvic floor muscles are functioning at their highest. Physical therapy can help with improving scar tissue mobility so that there is improved closure of the rectum.  We also spend significant time on tissue health to prevent sores or fissures.  With that improved scar tissue mobility, we work on teaching the pelvic floor muscles improved patterns to activate with the urge to have a bowel movement and to relax in order to have a full clearance of the rectum.  Just as importantly, we spend time on learning how to listen to your body’s signals for when you need to go poop. 
 
We also spend a large amount of time looking at food and fluid intake and comparing that with stool consistency and leaking patterns.  Often, we can help you start making behavioral changes along with pelvic floor changes that can give you the tools to start managing your symptoms and helping to prevent leaking.
 
If you are having any stool leaking, please either talk to your doctor or call a pelvic floor therapist that has excellent bowel treatment training and skills.  Between your doctor and therapy, we can often help put you on the road to success.

-Jennifer Cumming, PT MSPT CLT WCS

This blog is here for your help. It is the opinion of a Licensed Occupational Therapist. If you experience the symptoms addressed you should seek the help of a medical professional who can diagnose and develop a treatment plan that is individualized for you.  If you enjoyed this blog, check out our website at foundationalconcepts.net for more blog entries and to learn more about our specialty PT practice, Foundational Concepts.  Follow us on Twitter @SarahpelvicPT or @Jenn_pelvic_PT and like us on Facebook/Foundational Concepts for updates.

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