Bowel incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements, causing stool to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. Also called fecal incontinence, it ranges from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.
Common causes of bowel incontinence include diarrhea, constipation, and muscle or nerve damage. The muscle or nerve damage may be associated with aging or with giving birth.
Lifelong habits of poor elimination can take their affect on us as we age. Have you always pushed in order to completely empty your bowels? Do you have hemorrhoids? Have you noticed a difference in how you eliminate after giving birth?
The loss of dignity associated with losing control over one's bodily functions can lead to embarrassment, shame, frustration, anger and depression. It's common for people with bowel incontinence to try to hide the problem or to avoid social engagements.
How We Can Help
If bowel incontinence is caused by muscle damage, we may recommend a program of exercise to restore muscle strength. These treatments can improve anal sphincter control and the awareness of the urge to defecate. Options include:
- Biofeedback: we teach simple exercises that can increase anal muscle range of motion. People learn how to strengthen and relax pelvic floor muscles and if needed, increase the sense when stool is ready to be released.
- Bowel habit training: we may recommend making a conscious effort to have a bowel movement at a specific time of day, for example, after eating. Establishing when you need to use the toilet can help you gain greater control. And because stool consistency is affected by what you eat and drink, we will discuss being conscientious about your intake.
As an Occupational Therapist, I have specialized psycho-social training that helps me to better understand your condition and the loss of dignity that can be associated with it. Please make an appointment today and let's discuss how I can help you.