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Constipation in children with reduced mobility : prevention and treatment

June 2012

What is constipation?

Constipation is defined as an over-accumulation of feces in the intestine that results in infrequent, hard, painful and difficult bowel movements.

Symptoms of constipation include :

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Discomfort
  • Pain
  • Fear of going to the bathroom
  • Alternation episodes of hard and liquid stools (overflow diarrhea)
  • Passage of bowel movements without awareness (if the stool retention mechanism is not functioning correctly)

How to prevent constipation?

Eat high-fiber foods and drink plenty of fluids

  • Incorporating there two changes to your child's diet simultaneously is a winning combination.
  • Choose foods that are rich in fiber (at least 2 grams of fiber per portion) and introduce them gradually. Increasing fiber in-take too quickly can cause stomach pain and gas.
  • Increase fluid in-take. Drinking large amounts of water at once is not necessary.
  • Milk, juice, broth and other fluids do count ! Give your child fluids to drink regularly. Do not wait until your child is thirsty.
  • Speak to a nutritionist for more ideas or information.

What to do in the bathroom ?

  • About 10 minutes after each meal, have your child sit on the toilet or toilet seat for 10 minutes even if he or she does not have a bowel movement. This can be discontinued once the constipation has been resolved. Resume this obligatory step when bowel movements are more than two days apart.

Exercice and abdominal massages

  • It is important to encourage your child to be active and to change positions. Speak to a physiotherapist about a physical activities program for your child.
  • You can be shown how to perform abdominal massages. This can help move stool through the bowel for elimination.


  • Be patient and do not give up. Changing a habit can take at least 4 weeks. A year of efforts is sometimes required to achieve regular and comfortable bowel movements.
  • It is important to focus on successes and not failures. Keep a journal of your child's long-term progress.
  • Remember :
    • Give your child foods high in fiber and plenty of fluids
    • Have your child si on the toilet after meals
    • Encourage your child to be active

Rachel Brasseur-Picard, Nutritionist
Lucie Caron, Nurse
Sylvie D'Arcy, Physiotherapist and Clinical Coordinator

Retrieved from the pamphlet produced by the Neuromuscular Diseases Program

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Updated on 3/20/2015
Created on 1/16/2015
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