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  • Writer's pictureCarly Gossard

Rectal Balloon Training for bowel dysfunction

Rectal balloon training is an evidence based treatment that pelvic floor physical therapists can utilize to help patients appropriately respond to stool in the rectum.  Although a balloon in your rectum may sound unpleasant, we promise that it’s not as bad as it sounds!  The rectal canal is designed to sense pressure and not pain.  This means that rectal fullness will likely be the only sensation you feel.  Plus, some patients see an improvement in their bowel troubles after just a few uses.  Let’s explain a little more about this treatment tool and who can benefit from its use.  


What is a rectal balloon? 


Rectal balloon training is a form of biofeedback that involves inserting a small, medical-grade balloon into the rectum.  The balloon is attached to a syringe that can slowly inflate the balloon within the rectal canal.  As the balloon is inflated, a stretch is placed on the rectal walls and typically an urge to move your bowels is noted.  The physical therapist can inflate or deflate the balloon to help you learn how to better sense stool in the rectum, improve your ability to hold back stool, or improve your ability to empty stool.  


How does it work?


During the first treatment session, the physical therapist will collect baseline data while inflating or deflating the balloon.  The sensations that we look for are the first sensation of pressure, the first desire to have a bowel movement, and a strong desire to have bowel movement.  These measurements allow us to determine if you are experiencing low sensation in your rectum, which means the rectum is not able to sense stool when stool is there, or increased sensation in your rectum, which would mean the rectum falsely senses a large amount of bowel when only a small amount is present.  The rectal balloon also helps patients practice coordinating their pelvic floor muscles to either relax and open the muscles to have a bowel movement or contract the muscles to help hold back stool.  


Who can benefit from this type of treatment? 


A number of patients can benefit from rectal balloon training including patients with: 


1) Dyssynergic defecation (when the muscles and nerves in the pelvic floor fail to coordinate

correctly to have a bowel movement)


2) Constipation or difficulty emptying stool (this includes straining or infrequent bowel

movements) 


3) Fecal incontinence (losing stool beyond your control) 


4) Fecal smearing (wiping forever after a bowel movement) 


5) Fecal urgency (running to get to the bathroom in time) 


6) Rectal fullness (sensation of something in the rectum) 


7) Frequent small bowel movements (think small pellet like stool) 


8) External anal sphincter impairments (these can occur from grade 3 or grade 4 tears during

childbirth) 


Rectal balloon training is a safe and effective way to improve overall colorectal symptoms.  The balloon provides a fake sensation to help patients perceive and improve the functions required to have a bowel movement.  If you feel that you may benefit from rectal balloon training or have any future questions please let us know! 

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