It’s not fun to talk about, but constipation is a common condition worldwide, especially in Western countries. It affects all ages, with the very young and very old being especially susceptible to this issue. As the healthcare field looks for treatment solutions, research on this condition over the past two decades has continued to highlight the natural effects of chiropractic care on patients suffering with this problem.
In 2021, over the counter revenue of laxatives in the United States reached around 1.68 billion dollars according to a report published on Statista.com. Constipation is also the 2nd most common reason children are referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist for consult. Typically, treatment includes laxatives and recommendations for high fluid and fiber intake, but does not always lead to an effective resolution.
As with any health condition, it is important to look at WHY a person is having the symptoms, to treat the root cause. In the case of constipation, sometimes the cause is in the spine. When the lower spine is misaligned, it can interfere with nerve signals to the digestive tract, causing foods to not be digested efficiently and hindering the body’s ability to remove the waste.
Consider data from these key studies and literature review:
A scientific case series presentation describes chiropractic care for three pediatric patients, all under the age of two, with chronic constipation. The patients had bowel movements that were limited to once a week, up to every 3-4 days. Under medical supervision, parents had initiated dietary changes and used cod liver oil, but neither treatment was successful. Doctors initiated chiropractic care utilizing the Activator Technique which is an instrument-assisted technique providing a quick, low-force impulse at specific points. The patients began to respond to care immediately. Within 3 weeks, one of the children was having bowel movements every 1-2 days. And by 3 months, the other 2 children were having the same result. In addition to increased frequency, parents described the movements as “soft without the accompanying straining, pain and rectal bleeding.”
Another case study reports on an 8 year old boy who had experienced chronic constipation since birth. Laxatives, high fluid intake, and high fiber intake had not provided relief of the symptoms. When examined by a chiropractor, a misalignment was discovered in his lower spine. The patient was given spinal manipulative therapy and massage of his abdomen and reported “an immediate dramatic improvement in bowel function after the first treatment”. The treatment was continued twice a week for 4 weeks. At that point, the patient had achieved normal bowel function and treatment was discontinued. Thirteen years later, at age 21, the patient reported he continued to have normal bowel function.
Yet another scientific case report, discusses the treatment of twin 7 month old boys who were born premature at 29 weeks gestation and had required invasive abdominal surgeries. Both boys had suffered with constipation since birth. The treatment plan included chiropractic manipulation, acupressure stimulation, and dynamic neuromuscular stabilization twice a week. Both infants had improved bowel movements after their first treatment. They both were reported to be at or near normal bowel function, one of the boys at 4 weeks and the other boys at 5 weeks. Their treatment was reduced to once a week and then once a month as they reached and maintained regular bowel function.
A systemic review of literature was conducted to analyze the quality of all included studies, and to provide an overall level of evidence analysis for a manual therapy approach to improve the symptoms of functional constipation. They found seven studies that met inclusion criteria. Though there was some variation in the methodological quality (1 was deemed strong, 5 moderate and 1 low quality), all studies reported consistent findings that manual therapy is an appropriate treatment for constipation.
Finally, a pilot study was published in Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology in 2017. The study involved 21 women aged 18-70 who were suffering from functional constipation or a defecation disorder leading to chronic constipation. They were treated with osteopathic manipulative treatment weekly for four weeks. Following treatment, the women reported a decrease of abdominal pain and bloating, increased stool frequency, and reduced drug intake.
With an abundance of anecdotal evidence already in place, these studies add to the scientific evidence-based practice for chiropractic as a safe and effective treatment for constipation both in children and adults. Chiropractic, being a natural, gentle treatment, does not carry with it the risk of cramping or other discomfort sometimes associated with constipation remedies. This is especially important with young children who cannot understand pain. If you or your child is having trouble with constipation, talk to your chiropractor. Chiropractic care can offer an effective solution providing relief naturally.
The successful chiropractic care of pediatric patients with chronic constipation: A case series and selective review of the literature by Joel Alcantara, DC and Diane M. Mayer, DC Copyright © 2008 The College of Chiropractors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Quist, David, Duray, Stephen. Resolution of Symptoms of Chronic Constipation in an 8-Year-Old Male After Chiropractic Treatment. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics VOLUME 30, ISSUE 1, P65-68, JANUARY 01, 2007 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmpt.2006.11.005
Iyer MM, Skokos E, Piombo D. Chiropractic Management Using Multimodal Therapies on 2 Pediatric Patients With Constipation. J Chiropr Med. 2017 Dec;16(4):340-345. doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Dec 7. PMID: 29276467; PMCID: PMC5731839.
Leon M. Erdrich, Duncan Reid, Jesse Mason, Does a manual therapy approach improve the symptoms of functional constipation? A systematic review of the literature, International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, Volume 36, 2020, Pages 26-35, ISSN 1746-0689, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijosm.2020.05.003.
Aurélie Belvaux, Michel Bouchoucha, Robert Benamouzig, Osteopathic management of chronic constipation in women patients. Results of a pilot study, Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Volume 41, Issue 5, 2017, Pages 602-611, ISSN 2210-7401, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinre.2016.12.003.
Laxatives OTC revenue in the United States from 2017 to 2021 https://www.statista.com/statistics/506583/otc-revenue-of-laxatives-in-the-us/