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What is a weak anal sphincter?



A weak anal sphincter is when the internal and / or external anal sphincter muscles are weakened or damaged. The anal sphincters (internal and external) are rings of muscle at the opening of the anus. The sphincters keep the anus closed as stool gathers in the rectum. Ultimately the pressure on the rectum wall leads to the internal anal sphincter relaxing. Conscious control over the external anal sphincter enables stool to pass out of the body via the anus.


What causes a weak anal sphincter?



A weak anal sphincter can occur as a result from either injury to the sphincter muscle or damage to the nerve innervating the sphincter. A number of factors can lead to a weak anal sphincter, including:
  • Childbirth
  • Trauma to the anus
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Anatomical disturbance of the pelvic floor muscles
  • Diseases of the central nervous system (for example spinal cord lesions, multiple sclerosis)

What problems are caused by weak anal sphincters?



A weak anal sphincter can cause faecal incontinence, which can be a cause of great distress for sufferers, severely affecting their quality of life.


What can physiotherapy do to help?



Physiotherapy techniques include exercises to increase the muscle tone of the external sphincter, such as:
  • Pelvic floor and external anal sphincter exercises
  • Biofeedback therapy
These forms of treatment are effective when applied and instructed by physiotherapists skilled in this area of rehabilitation.


Summary



A weak anal sphincter is when the internal and / or external anal sphincter muscles are weakened or damaged. It can occur due to injury to the sphincter muscles, or damage to the nerve innervating the sphincter. A number of factors can contribute to a weak anal sphincter, including childbirth, and diseases of the central nervous system. Physiotherapy techniques can help improve the strength and control of the sphincter.

For more information please call 0800 033 7800, email office@manchesterphysio.co.uk or alternatively, book an appointment online today!


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