Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
An example of anorectal dysfunction that can contribute to constipation is a condition called Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia (also referred to as anismus). It is marked by the failure of pelvic floor muscles to relax, or a paradoxical contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, with defecation.
The pelvic floor is composed of a group of muscles that span the underlying surface of the bony pelvis, which function to allow voluntary urination and defecation. “Paradoxical contraction” refers to an abnormal increase of pelvic floor muscle activity with defecation, rather than the normal decrease in muscle activity that is necessary in order to have a normal bowel movement. This condition can contribute to some forms of constipation, complaints of incomplete evacuation, and straining with stool.
Because pelvic floor muscles are controlled voluntarily, their function can be improved through various learning procedures – such as biofeedback.
What is biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a neuromuscular reeducation tool therapists can use to tell if certain processes in our bodies are working correctly. It is a painless process that uses a computer and a video monitor to display bodily functions of which we are usually unaware. Special sensors measure these functions, which are displayed as sounds we can hear, or as linegraphs we can see on a computer screen. In this way, we receive information (feedback) on how our bodies work.
The therapist helps us to use this displayed information to modify or change abnormal responses to more normal patterns. That may mean increasing a response, decreasing a response, or learning to coordinate two responses more effectively.