Anismus, also called pelvic floor dyssynergia,, paradoxical puborectalis contraction, or dyssynergic defecation, is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to have a bowel movement.

In this condition, the external sphincter muscles and pelvic floor muscles (as well as the nerves that help control these muscles) aren’t functioning properly. For example, these muscles often contract instead of relax when a person is trying to poop, or they don’t coordinate well enough to allow someone to generate the force needed to push stool out of their rectum and anus. Some people are unable to sense the urge to defecate.

Anismus can both cause or be caused by chronic constipation, which is typically defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. The stool that someone does manage to pass might be very hard, and it can be painful and difficult to pass. Anismus can also lead to other symptoms associated with constipation, including stomach pain, anal pain, and bloating. Understandably, people with animus often feel depressed, anxious, or embarrassed about their symptoms.

A pelvic floor physical therapist can help someone with anismus retrain their pelvic floor muscles so that these muscles relax while having a bowel movement. This can be achieved through techniques such as biofeedback and pelvic floor exercises. Additional interventions, including manual therapy and patient education on dietary interventions, toileting positions, and lifestyle techniques can help facilitate a more relaxed pelvic floor and help a person have more regular bowel movements that are easier to pass.

If you or someone you know has signs and symptoms of anismus, contact ITR Physical Therapy at 301-770-7060 to schedule an appointment with a pelvic floor PT near Washington DC today.

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