Potty training for any family is rarely described as an easy process. Yet when the child also struggles with functional constipation (no signs of abnormalities physically, seems to be of functional cause) and/or encopresis (involuntary defecation) it turns into a frustrating process that is difficult to get a handle on. Other factors and diagnosis that can prolong toilet training are Hirschsprung disease, Crohn’s, Imperforate anus, Celiac disease, slow transit systems, developmental delays, sensory processing disorders, Autism spectrum disorders, etc.
Pelvic Floor Therapy using Biofeedback (surface EMG)/Real Time Ultrasound (RTUS), therapeutic exercises, nutrition advice, and life style modifications can help navigate this difficult process and improve symptoms associated with chronic constipation, encopresis, and chronic laxative use. Several studies have concluded positive outcomes with Pelvic Physical Therapy interventions.
A study completed by Zivkovic et al in 2012 looked at the use of diaphragmatic breathing exercises and retraining of the pelvic floor in children with dysfunctional voiding. They defined dysfunctional voiding as urinary incontinence, straining, weakened stream, feeling the bladder has not emptied, and increased EMG activity during the discharge of urine. Although this study focuses primarily on urinary issues, it also includes constipation in the treatment and outcomes. Forty-three patients between the ages of 5 and 13 with no neurological disorders were included in the study. The subjects underwent standard urotherapy with included education on normal voiding habits, appropriate fluid intake, keeping a voiding chart, and posture while voiding in addition to pelvic floor muscle retraining and diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Results showed 100% of patients were cured of their constipation, 83% were cured of urinary incontinence, and 66% were cured of nocturnal enuresis.
A recent study by Farahmand et al in 2015 researched the effect of pelvic floor muscle exercise for functional constipation in the pediatric population. Stool with holding and delayed colonic transit are most often the causes for children having difficulty with bowel movements. Behavioral modifications combined with laxatives still left 30% of children symptomatic. Forty children between the ages of 4 and 18 performed pelvic floor muscle exercise sessions at home, two times per day for 8 weeks. The children sat for 5 minutes in a semi-sitting (squatting) position while being supervised by parents. The patients increased the exercise duration 5 minutes per week for the first two weeks and stayed the same over the next six weeks. The results showed 90% of patients reported overall improvement of symptoms. Defecation frequency, fecal consistency and decrease in fecal diameter were all found to be significantly improved. The number of patients with stool withholding, fecal impaction, fecal incontinence, and painful defecation decreased as well.
Children and parents gain confidence and knowledge to take control of stooling and urination issues when they have the right information and tools to do so. Overall, it is important to know toileting problems are common in children and Pediatric Pelvic PT can help your family engage in a plan for success.
Call us with any questions and speak with your health care provider if a family member may be in need of this specialty.