Can Pelvic Floor Therapy Help Manage IBS?

Dealing with the challenges of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be both frustrating and uncomfortable. If first-line treatments have not worked for you, you might want to see if pelvic floor therapy can help.1

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues. Together, they form a supportive structure at the base of your pelvis. Everyone has a pelvic floor. Think of it as the body’s foundation, a structure in which everything is held in place. The pelvic floor has many functions, including:2,3

  • Supporting pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, prostate, and rectum
  • Contributing to bowel and bladder control
  • Assisting with sexual function
  • Holding the pelvis and spine steady

Your pelvic floor muscles can be too tight or not strong enough. This is known as pelvic floor dysfunction. It can lead to symptoms like:2-5

  • Pelvic pain
  • Constipation or having a hard time emptying your bowels completely
  • Bathroom urgency
  • Leaking poop or pee (incontinence)
  • Pelvic organ prolapse (when weakened pelvic floor muscles allow organs to move out of place)

The connection between IBS and pelvic floor dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction can be caused by many things. In people with IBS, especially those who have IBS with constipation (IBS-C), ongoing (chronic) straining to poop can cause pelvic floor dysfunction.1,2,4

Some people with IBS-C have abdominal pain because of pelvic floor dysfunction such as pelvic organ prolapse. So it is fair to say that IBS and pelvic floor dysfunction have a bidirectional relationship. That is, both conditions impact the other.4

It is also possible for the 2 to be confused since they share similar symptoms. If you are dealing with any constipation or trouble emptying your bowels, talk with your doctor.3

How pelvic floor therapy can help

Pelvic floor therapy is a specific form of physical therapy designed to address pelvic floor issues. A trained physiotherapist will work with you to assess and treat any dysfunctions in this area. Here are some ways pelvic floor therapy can help people with IBS:4-6

Muscle relaxation exercises

Techniques to relax and ease tension in the pelvic floor muscles can help with symptoms. Things like acupuncture, massage, yoga, and stretching can be used to release tension and improve the flexibility of the pelvic floor muscles. Prioritizing stress reduction techniques like meditation or warm baths may also help.3,5,6

Biofeedback training

Biofeedback involves using technology to provide information about muscle activity in a way you can see or hear. This can help you learn to control and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.3,6

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises can help people of all sexes to target and strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. To perform them, tighten the muscles you would use to stop peeing midstream or stop the urge to poop. Just be sure you are doing Kegels properly. Talk to your doctor about how you can perform them in an effective way.2,5

Who can benefit from pelvic floor therapy?

Pelvic floor therapy can help anyone at any age. It can benefit anyone experiencing IBS symptoms and pelvic floor dysfunction. If you are dealing with pelvic pain, urinary issues, or difficulty with bowel movements alongside your IBS, talk to your doctor to see whether you should try pelvic floor therapy.5,6

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.