Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can very negatively affect a patient’s life. This condition can vary between bouts of diarhea and constipation leading to much disruption and discomfort. It can also be embarrassing for patients as it can be triggered by stress. Here are common myths you should know about IBS and how massage can assist your patients:
- IBS is not a health condition: Many people will fluff IBS off as something that is caused by emotional issues such as stress and anxiety. However IBS is a health condition that affects the lining of the intestinal walls which changes the way food passes through the colon. This can result in the food processing either too fast or too slow which results in diarhea, constipation or a combination of both. Especially in the case of diarhea this can prove very disruptive to a patient’s life and can also be embarrassing when they are faced with “emergency” situations.
- IBS is not a big deal: Although IBS is not considered a serious condition, the symptoms of IBS can be quite painful including gas, bloating and cramping. Although it is not life threatening, depending on the degree of the symptoms a patient is experiencing they can become dehydrated and also incapacitated due to the severity of their diarhea which can lead to lost time at work as well as missed social engagements. It can also sometimes interfere with sexual activity due to the discomfort associated with cramping and bloating. In other words IBS can have a very negative impact on a person’s life.
- IBS is just for people who cannot handle stress: Although stress does not cause IBS it certainly can aggravate it. When patients are going through stressful moments in life from tests at school to attending an important meeting at work or job interviews they can experience symptoms of IBS. It can be a vicious circle as the symptoms associated with IBS can be terribly inconvenient and this can make stress and anxiety worse which then worsens symptoms. IBS affects people of all walks of life and is actually quite common. It is not specific to people who cannot handle stress.
- IBS is a condition caused by age: In a way this is true, however the age group is not those over 50 but instead those under 35. IBS is more common in people under 35 as well as in females. It also appears to affect those who have family members with IBS. However it is not clear if the family connection is due to environment or genes as it is specific to immediate family such as a parent or sibling.
- IBS can be cured: Unfortunately this is not the case as it is unclear what causes IBS. Instead patients who suffer from IBS can really only treat the symptoms with changes to their diet, lessening stress and in some cases the use of anti-diarrheal and anti-depressant medications.
- Natural treatments do not work for IBS: This fortunately is not the case. Massage can assist in two ways. First it can help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety which can aggravate symptoms of IBS. Second massage can aid in the stimulation of sluggish digestion for patients who are suffering from constipation while relaxing the abdominal muscles and helping to reduce the pain and discomfort of bloating. Stimulation of the colon can help maintain balance of gastrointestinal symptoms.
As an RMT understanding the true impact IBS can have on a patient’s life will help you be more empathetic to their struggles and aid in offering the best possible treatment. Combining soothing, calming massage in hand with effective physical treatments will aid in promoting gastrointestinal health.