Physiotherapy for Gut Health - Article by Margarita Gurevich, published in the Great Health Guide


To read the article as it appears in the Great Health Guide click here:

Alternatively read the text below:

Physiotherapy for Gut Health

Margarita Gurevich

Does the thought that physiotherapy for gut health can be used to treat gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional dyspepsia surprise you? After all, most people are used to seeing their physio for back, neck and joint pain, so the idea that physiotherapists can help with gastrointestinal problems can seem a bit foreign. Nevertheless, physiotherapy for gut health is certainly a very effective treatment option for many gastrointestinal issues. In this article we will look specifically at IBS and functional dyspepsia.

What is IBS and functional dyspepsia?

First of all, let’s define what these conditions are. Irritable bowel syndrome and functional dyspepsia are both functional disorders of the stomach and bowel. Generally, a person is diagnosed with IBS or functional dyspepsia when there are no pathological issues identified.

While these conditions do not lead to serious disease, they can cause a lot of physical and emotional problems, interfering with the person’s ability to work and attend social events. Common symptoms include bloating, nausea, early satiety, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea and others.

First consult your doctor:

If you are experiencing such symptoms the first step is to consult your doctor as there are many conditions which can cause the abovementioned symptoms. Your doctor will likely refer you to a gastroenterologist who might arrange some specific tests in order to try to diagnose the problem. In the case of IBS and functional dyspepsia, however, such examinations often do not detect anything. The diagnosis is consequently made more on the basis of the symptoms.

Common problems when all serious pathology is ruled out:

Having serious pathology ruled out is certainly very reassuring for the patient, however it does not help the person to alleviate their symptoms.

  • Sometimes it is useful to have special tests for intolerance to certain foods. The most common are dairy products, wheat, yeast and some fruits.
  • Your doctor or physiotherapist can tell you more about these tests and give you advice on how to do them.
  • If you find that you have an intolerance to certain foods, then by changing your diet you are likely to start to feel better.

When food intolerance is not a factor, what can cause symptoms?

Often, unfortunately, the tests for intolerance come back negative or changing the diet does not result in a significant improvement.

Often the problem can be associated with:

  • stress
  • lack of mobility
  • delayed intestinal peristalsis
  • and other factors

This is where physiotherapy for gut health can be very useful.

There is a lot of scientific evidence which proves this. In fact, in many European countries physiotherapy has been effectively used for many years to treat such pathologies. The good news is that now physiotherapy for gut health is becoming more widely used in Australia as well.

So how can physiotherapy help?

It does this by helping to reduce and control the symptoms and by assisting the functional activity of the gut which helps to reduce the likelihood of recurrences. Various electrotherapy modalities, in particular SCENAR therapy, help to control the symptoms. SCENAR is an acronym which stands for Self-Controlled Energy Neuro Adaptive Regulator and is a small, hand-held device that can be applied to most problem areas which are causing pain to an individual. It works by improving blood circulation and delivering more oxygen to the affected areas, thus speeding up the recovery process. In the case of IBS and functional dyspepsia it helps to improve the functioning of the gastrointestinal system.

Symptoms of IBS & dyspepsia are significantly less with improved gut mobility.

When it comes to improving the functional activity of the gut, specific exercises and Clinical Pilates are very effective. When gut mobility is improved many patients find that they have significantly less constipation and gas build up and consequently notice less bloating, nausea and other symptoms common to IBS and functional dyspepsia.

As discussed, physiotherapy for gut health can be a very effective treatment avenue particularly when it comes to managing IBS and functional dyspepsia. Often it can be used as monotherapy but sometimes, as mentioned above, it would need to be used in conjunction with a specific diet and other lifestyle modifications.