Biofeedback for Constipation

Biofeedback is an intensive type of therapy where people are taught how to have more voluntary control over an involuntary function. Biofeedback has, unfortunately, not been studied extensively, so it's not clear how well it might work for CIC.

Researchers discovered that for some people with CIC, symptoms come from a problem with the pelvic floor (which might include conditions called pelvic floor dysfunction or dyssynergia). In that particular situation, there are studies that show that biofeedback may be helpful.

Even though it's not been studied and we don't know for sure if biofeedback would help others with CIC, your doctor might recommend this type of therapy because it might make a difference.

What to Expect From Biofeedback

During biofeedback, a healthcare professional will use sensors to monitor muscle activity that's normally involuntary. The process starts with a non-invasive, painless test where electrodes are attached to the skin. The results are used to assess how the tested muscles are responding.

In the case of constipation, where certain muscles may not be working as well as they could, a patient can be taught how to use those muscles more effectively. Biofeedback is the process of retraining the muscles that are involved in bowel control, in order to pass stools more easily.

The therapy usually takes between six and eight sessions over a period of a few months and can include relaxation tools and breathing and mental exercises. Each session could last between 30 and 60 minutes. Applying what is learned during the therapy sessions while at home is an important part of achieving success with biofeedback.

There aren't any reported adverse effects from biofeedback, but it is a good idea to find an experienced, reputable practitioner. Biofeedback machines that can be purchased to use at home are probably not going to have the desired effect. 

Other Complementary Therapies

It's not known how beneficial other techniques, such as mindfulness, relaxation, or heat, are for helping ease the symptoms of CIC. There really aren't any studies that have proven that they'll help with constipation, but that doesn't mean they're not worth trying.

Meditation and stress relief techniques have certainly been shown to help improve overall health, though. Feeling better and more relaxed in general may help with the symptoms of constipation. The good news is, taking up meditation or doing relaxation exercises are not generally associated with negative side effects, so it's not likely that there's any harm from trying them.

The only thing to keep in mind is that if these things aren't helpful, seeing a physician and working out another treatment plan, which may include medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, is going to offer the best chance for alleviating symptoms.