​A normal bowel varies considerably from one person to another - you do not have to go every day to have a healthy bowel - bowels are very individual.

The range of normal varies from three times a day to every three days.

Your bowel is healthy if your bowel motions (faeces) are:

  • regular
  • soft and well formed
  • easy to pass (but also easy to control)
  • leave you feeling that your bowel has been fully emptied

See below for common bowel conditions

Bowel/Faecal incontinence

This is the loss of bowel control, resulting in a loss of gas, liquid or solid stool. It can affect men and women of any age.

Whatever the problem, the embarrassment and anxiety it can create can severely affect your confidence, with the fear of repeated accidents always in the back of your mind.

There can be many different causes of bowel leakage; most commonly-

  • Muscle Weakness: Weakness of, or damage to, the rings of muscle which circle the anus. These are called the external and internal anal sphincter muscles, and they sit just below the pelvic floor muscles.


  • Stool Consistency: If stools are watery it takes much more muscle control to hold the stool safely in the rectum, and it becomes even more of a problem if the pelvic floor or anal sphincter muscles are weak. Surprisingly, constipation can also result in bowel leakage. If there is a large accumulation of stool sitting in the rectum, mucus can seep around the stool and escape through the anus, often accompanied by small pieces of stool.

Contributing Factors

  • severe constipation

  • difficult childbirth

  • some medications

  • some medical conditions

  • some bowel surgery

  • infections

  • radiotherapy

Physiotherapy treatment may include:

  • a bowel management programme

  • life-style changes

  • anal sphincter strengthening exercises


Constipation is a symptom not a disease. It can be defined as a change from a normal bowel habit, which can cause pain or discomfort, the bowel motion may be hard, dry and/or more difficult to pass.

Contributing Factors

  • insufficient fluid intake

  • inadequate dietary fibre and/or change in diet

  • ignoring the call to pass a motion

  • poor seating position when moving your bowels

  • lack of exercise and/or decreased mobility

  • pregnancy

  • some medical conditions and /or chronic illness

  • some medications

  • long term laxative abuse

  • weakness and frailty

  • anxiety, depression and grief

  • disorders of the bowel (further investigation generally required)


Causes of constipation need to be identified so that treatment can be planned. This can be done in partnership with your GP and physiotherapist

Physiotherapy may include:

  • a bowel management programme

  • life-style changes

  • Exercises to improve defecation technique