How Do I Know if My Child is Constipated? - Breakaway Physical Therapy
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How Do I Know if My Child is Constipated?

Constipated Child

Constipation is a very common problem for many children. Constipation is one of the top 10 concerns parents take their child to see the pediatrician and account for 25% of all referrals to see a pediatric gastroenterologist. Most parents commonly notice that their child may be exhibiting the signs and symptoms below between the ages of 2 and 4 years old when they typically begin potty-training.

Signs and symptoms of constipation:

  • Less than 3 bowel movements (BM) per week
  • BM’s that are hard, dry, difficult to pass, and may be large in diameter
  • Straining or having pain with BM’s and stomach pain and bloating
  • “skid marks” in the child’s underwear
  • Resisting or withholding BM’s

What can I do as a parent??

The goals of treating constipation are to produce soft, painless stools and prevent recurrence of stool backing up in the pipes again. This can be initially achieved by performing a “clean out” of the bowels that is led by your doctor typically with use of a laxative given in large doses to flush out the system.

Next, and most importantly is to begin behavioral modifications. Most people that exhibit normal voiding habits tend to have bowel movements around the same time every day which typically occur in the morning within an hour of eating or drinking. Try having your child perform “sit time” for 5 minutes after eating breakfast. Be sure to have their feet supported on a stool, arms relaxed forward on their thighs, and encourage them to focus on deep breathing to help relax their pelvic floor muscles. They should not be pushing or straining to force a bowel movement. If they have a successful bowel movement, praise and reward them as you see fit. If nothing happens after 5 minutes, praise their effort, allow them to get up, and try again after lunch and dinner. Be sure to keep a record of their bowel movements using an app or chart. We personally use the free Poop Tracker App at home.

Performing physical activity and bowel massage which your physical therapist can teach you may be helpful in kick starting a bowel movement. Increasing water intake and encouraging your child to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains for optimal fiber intake will help to promote healthy and regular bowel movements.

At Breakaway Physical Therapy, our pelvic floor specialists treat issues with constipation in all ages and recognize the importance of establishing regular bowel movements especially in children to promote optimal pelvic health throughout their lifespan. If you or your child are struggling with constipation call to schedule an appointment to learn more about how physical therapy can help you become a super pooper!


Carissa Reed

Carissa Reed

Carissa started her physical therapy journey in 2001 after graduating from Maryville University in Saint Louis, Missouri with a Bachelor's of Physical Therapy. In 2001, she completed her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill where her focus was in women's health studies specifically the effects of exercise during pregnancy.
Carissa Reed

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