How Physical Therapy Can Help with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Those suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can experience debilitating pain as well as physical and emotional stress. In this article, we’ll cover what IBD is, specific symptoms and how physical therapy (PT) can help.

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Mayo Clinic describes IBD as “an umbrella term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract.” This includes Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease of the large intestine in which the innermost lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops tiny open sores or ulcers.

The symptoms of UC can range from manageable to severe and may include:

  • Diarrhea/bloody stool
  • Fever/Fatigue
  • Abdominal/rectal pain
  • Reduced appetite/weight loss
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic illness that causes inflammation in any part of the digestive tract but commonly affects the small intestine.

Unlike UC, Crohn’s affects the entire lining of the affected portion of the digestive tract leading to symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Severe diarrhea/bloody stool
  • Mouth sores
  • Fever/Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite/weight loss
  • Pain or sores around the anus

Emotional Implications of IBD

There are also emotional implications to consider when living with IBD. Chronic diseases like UC or Crohn’s can severely impact your mood or outlook on life and lead to bouts of depression, anxiety, etc.

Incontinence Issues Associated with IBD

While none of the symptoms associated with IBD are easy to live with, two symptoms that cause a lot of stress are fecal and urinary incontinence.

Fecal Incontinence (FI) is the inability to control bowel movements, causing stool to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. This may be a small amount that occurs when passing gas or complete emptying of the bowels. People who are affected by FI often suffer alone because they feel it is an embarrassing topic to discuss. However, this is a common complaint for those with IBD. In fact, some reports suggest more than half of people who have IBD experience FI to varying degrees.

Urinary Incontinence (UI) is the loss of bladder control leading to urinary leakage. UI symptoms can range from mild (a few drops) to severe (complete emptying of the bladder) greatly impacting daily function. This is reported to be present in about ⅓ of people with IBD.

How Can Physical Therapy Help IBD?

Guided PT with a qualified professional can have great benefits for those living with IBD. Broad IBD symptoms addressed through PT include:

  • Fecal/Urinary Incontinence
  • Fecal/Urinary Urgency
  • Overactive Bladder
  • Sarcopenia
  • Fatigue
  • Pain

The following are PT modalities that can help improve daily life and reduce symptoms in people affected by IBD:

Proper Toileting Posture

Understanding and utilizing proper toileting postures can greatly improve fecal incontinence and discomfort. Your PT can teach you techniques to more fully empty bowels potentially leading to fewer incidents of leakage.

Urge Suppression Techniques

These techniques can help control the sudden urge to urinate, decreasing the sense of emergency around using the toilet.

Bladder Diaries and Voiding Intervals

Bladder retraining is a technique in which you urinate at timed intervals to train your bladder into a new voiding pattern. Keeping a bladder diary is an important part of executing this technique.

Reduce Pelvic Pain with PT

Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) is a complication of IBD that often goes unaddressed and misdiagnosed. PT can help to reduce or manage the symptoms associated with CPP.

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy can help rehabilitate the pelvic floor muscles. Your physical therapist should do an extensive assessment and then treat what they find both externally and internally.

A Yoga Program

A yoga asana practice is a great approach to managing pelvic pain and strengthening the pelvic floor. Provenance Rehab offers yoga classes geared toward relaxation, stability, and pelvic floor awareness.

Living with IBD can be challenging and complicated. Although physical therapy does not treat the disease, it is a safe and effective treatment for some of the bothersome symptoms. Physical therapy, with a qualified professional like those at Provenance Rehabilitation, can support the well-being of those living with UC or Crohn’s Disease.

If you are in the Greater Atlanta area and you have questions about how PT can help your IBD, contact Provenance Rehab today.