Benefits of Physical Therapy for Gut Health

In the United States, approximately 60 to 70 million people have been burdened by digestive diseases. Commonly, these issues can be treated by over-the-counter medication, such as lactase supplements and probiotics, as well as dietary adjustments. Lifestyle changes, including quitting drinking and smoking, are also being advised.

However, for maximum relief and longer-lasting results, you must also address the physical dysfunction that comes with these diseases. And while being physically active is not a recommended solution for digestive issues, you might be surprised to learn that physical therapy works wonders for sufferers.

Below are the benefits of physical therapy for gut health.

For acid reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as "acid reflux," is typically caused by a hiatal hernia. This occurs when a portion of the stomach is pushed up through an opening in the diaphragm, moving the esophagus higher into the chest cavity. As a result, stomach acid passes through the esophagus, leaving behind a painful, burning sensation.

Physical therapists are able to use massage techniques and manual organ manipulation to help reposition the stomach and prevent the acid from rising. The therapist might also discuss proper positioning to minimize the symptoms, though the "right" positions are different for everybody. For example, some might find that supine positions should be avoided after meals.

For bloating

Abdominal Distention, or in layman’s terms, "bloating," happens when the expansion of the stomach causes it to painfully contract. This leads to a full, heavy, and generally uncomfortable sensation in the lower abdomen. Bloating can be the result of several reasons, with the most common one being overeating. This condition becomes more prevalent during the holiday season, as a result of too much stress and unhealthy food choices.

To alleviate this condition, physical therapists use breathing and biofeedback techniques, based on electromyography-guided control of abdominothoracic muscular activity. According to a 2017 study published by Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, patients who received biofeedback treatment learned to increase abdominal activity and reduce rib area activity. The treatment resulted in at least a 55% reduction of bloating.

For constipation


Constipation is a symptom of other gastrointestinal issues, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, which leads to less frequent and difficult bowel movements.

To remove feelings of constipation, physical therapists employ techniques on the pelvic muscles to help the abdominal organs move and function better. Sometimes, biofeedback is also applied for these muscles to relax and open fully during bowel movements. There are also many breathing and stretching exercises that can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s digestive functions.

When to see a medical professional


However, while physical therapy can help improve your gut health, if the symptoms do not go away, you need to see a primary care physician.

However, the Association of American Medical Colleges notes that there will be a predicted shortage of up to 124,000 primary care physicians in the next decade. Fortunately, schools in higher education are offering comprehensive online programs to train medical professionals in various fields to fill the talent gap, despite the logistical challenges caused by the pandemic. Students in online nursing programs are taught professional nursing skills with a deep approach to disease prevention and health management, allowing them to take on responsibilities as educators, rehabilitators, and eventually, primary care providers. Many of them even specialize in a certain field, like genetics, which allow them to provide more specialized care in fields such as gut health.

Meanwhile, if you are experiencing extremely serious symptoms, it might be best to consult a gastroenterologist. Many of them have an online doctorate in clinical nutrition, which is especially useful in providing treatment for serious gut diseases, such as bloody stools, severe abdominal pain, and multiple consecutive days without bowel movements.

Physical therapy has a lot of surprising benefits, and many of them are for the betterment of your gut health. If you're experiencing gut issues that aren't serious enough to take to a primary care provider, allow licensed physical therapists to try and alleviate your symptoms.

 

Article written by Alicia Damien

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