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Biofeedback Treats One Type Of Chronic Constipation

Chronic constipation affects 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly one-third of affected people have dyssynergic defecation, in which muscles used// for bowel movements do not work well. Those who suffer from it can be relieved now, as the new research shows biofeedback treatment can successfully retrain muscles.

The biofeedback approach was better than standard treatment of laxatives, diet and exercise or another treatment (sham) that included muscle relaxation and coping strategies. The findings appear in the March issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Many people with dyssynergic defecation have life-long constipation and experience significant difficulty with passing stools but are unaware that they have this particular type of chronic constipation, said Satish Rao, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

"People with dyssynergic defecation cannot sense stool in their bowel or have difficulty using bodily mechanisms to expel the stool. However, they often don't seek help beyond using over-the-counter laxatives, and some doctors aren't aware of the condition either," Rao said.

The biofeedback technique involves making people more aware of unconscious or involuntary bodily functions involved in defecation. The technique includes placing a pencil-thin probe into the rectum to provide feedback information about how the body muscles are performing. This data, as well as visual and verbal feedback techniques, help individuals relearn the normal process of having a bowel movement.

The study included 79 adults, with an average age of 43, who had dyssynergic defecation. The 69 female and eight male participants were randomly assigned to one of three study groups: standard, biofeedback or "sham" biofeedback.

In the biofeedback group, 79 percent of the individuals had corrected bowel function at the end of the st
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