(646) 355-8777

Herman & Wallace Blog

Multiple Sclerosis: Dealing with Bowel Dysfunction

The British author, John Donne, wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” In a similar idea, no neurological symptom is independent and isolated; every system has potential to impact the whole body. Neurogenic bladder should cue a clinician to check for neurogenic bowel and to assess the pelvic floor in order to get a complete map of what to address in treatment.

Multiple SclerosisMartinez, Neshatian, & Khavari (2016) reviewed literature on neurogenic bowel dysfunction (NBD) and neurogenic bladder in patients with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Constipation and fecal incontinence can coexist with NBD, and a multifactorial bowel regimen is vital to conservative management in patients with neurological disorders. Nonpharmacological, pharmacological, and surgical approaches were reviewed in the article. Specific results for MS were reported only for transanal irrigation (TAI) and biofeedback. In TAI, fluid is used to stimulate the bowel and clean out stool from the rectum. A study showed 53% of the 30 patients with MS demonstrated a 50% or better improvement in bowel symptoms with TAI. In anorectal biofeedback, operant conditioning retrains motor and sensory responses via exercises guided by manometry. With biofeedback, a study showed 38% of patients had a beneficial impact with the intervention. The list of treatment approaches not specifically researched for MS patients in this review includes: dietary modifications, perianal/anorectal stimulation, abdominal massage, suppositories, oral medications such as stool softeners or prokinetic agents, sacral neuromodulation, antegrade continence enema, and colostomy.

Miletta, Bogliatto, & Bacchio (2017) presented a case study about management of sexual dysfunction, perineal pain, and elimination dysfunction in a 40 year old female with multiple sclerosis. She had been experiencing perineal pain for 5 months and had chronic MS symptoms of lower anourogenital dysfunction, including bladder retention and obstructed defecation syndrome. Physical therapy treatment included pelvic floor muscle training (primarily decreasing overactivity of pelvic muscles in this case), perineal massage, biofeedback, postural correction, global relaxation techniques, and a home self-training program. After 5 months of physical therapy, the woman had improved pelvic floor muscle contraction strength, resolution of pelvic floor muscle overactivity, increased sexual satisfaction (according to the Female Sexual Function Index score), a visual analog scale improvement of vulvar and perineal pain by 4 points, normalization of obstructed defecation syndrome, and decreased bladder retention symptoms. The authors concluded the variety of symptoms in MS require a multimodal approach for treatment, considering all the motor, autonomic, and cognitive impairments as well as side effects of medications that try to improve those symptoms. The quality of life of women with MS has potential to be improved significantly if pelvic floor disorders related to MS are addressed appropriately.

Ultimately, treating urinary dysfunction but avoiding bowel dysfunction does neurological patients a disservice. Systems are intertwined in a series of cause and effects throughout the body. The “Neurologic Conditions and the Pelvic Floor” course can expand your knowledge and understanding of how the symptoms of conditions such as multiple sclerosis can impact pelvic health and how we can better address the whole patient for optimal outcomes.


Martinez, L., Neshatian, L., & Khavari, R. (2016). Neurogenic Bowel Dysfunction in Patients with Neurogenic Bladder. Current Bladder Dysfunction Reports, 11(4), 334–340. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11884-016-0390-3
Miletta, M., Bogliatto, F., & Bacchio, L. (2017). Multidisciplinary Management of Sexual Dysfunction, Perineal Pain, and Elimination Dysfunction in a Woman with Multiple Sclerosis. International Journal of MS Care, 19(1), 25–28. http://doi.org/10.7224/1537-2073.2015-082

The Chronic Stress of Chronic Pain: Clinical Impli...
Our care is as important as our patients

Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Birmingham, AL (SOLD OUT)

Aug 8, 2020 - Aug 9, 2020
Location: Shelby Baptist Medical Center

Trauma Awareness for the Pelvic Therapist - Remote Course (Rescheduled)

Aug 8, 2020 - Aug 9, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Boston, MA (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 8, 2020 - Aug 9, 2020
Location: Marathon Physical Therapy

Colon System & Physiology - Remote Course

Aug 12, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders - Pullman, WA (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 14, 2020 - Aug 16, 2020
Location: Pullman Regional Hospital

Pregnancy Rehabilitation - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Aug 15, 2020 - Aug 16, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Aug 15, 2020 - Aug 16, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Jonesboro, AR (Rescheduled)

Aug 15, 2020 - Aug 16, 2020
Location: Arkansas State University

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Colorado Springs, CO (SOLD OUT)

Aug 15, 2020 - Aug 16, 2020
Location: Colorado Sport and Spine

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Bangor, ME (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 15, 2020 - Aug 16, 2020
Location: Husson University

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Reproductive System - Remote Course

Aug 21, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Mobilization of Visceral Fascia: The Reproductive System of Men and Women - Salt Lake City, UT (Rescheduled)

Aug 21, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Minneapolis, MN (Rescheduled)

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Allina Hospitals and Clinics

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Albany, NY (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: The Sage Colleges

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Alexandria, VA (SOLD OUT)

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Inova Physical Therapy Center

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - Coon Rapids, MN Satellite Course

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Mercy Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Houston, TX (Rescheduled)

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Texas Children’s Hospital

Pelvic Floor Level 2A - East Norriton, PA Satellite Course

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Mercy Hospital

Breastfeeding Conditions - Princeton, NJ (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Princeton Healthcare System

Pelvic Floor Level 2B - Manchester, NH

Aug 22, 2020 - Aug 23, 2020
Location: Franklin Pierce University

Pelvic Floor Level 1 Part 1 - Remote Course

Aug 27, 2020 - Aug 28, 2020
Location: Short Form Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Aug 28, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Charlotte NC Satellite Course

Aug 28, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Garden City Satellite Course (SOLD OUT)

Aug 28, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: Metro Physical & Aquatic Therapy

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Zion, IL Satellite Course (SOLD OUT!)

Aug 28, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Postpartum Rehabilitation - Remote Course (SOLD OUT)

Aug 29, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: Replacement Remote Course

Pelvic Floor Level 1 - Maywood, IL (Rescheduled)

Aug 29, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: Loyola University Health System

Postpartum Rehabilitation - San Francisco, CA (RESCHEDULED)

Aug 29, 2020 - Aug 30, 2020
Location: UCSF Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science