Even with a varied diet, children with limited mobility can still get constipated. Less movement means that the bowels work less effectively, but research shows that some stretching exercises can help reduce constipation (Awan & Masood, 2016).
If you are on a toileting journey with your child, these eight stretches are a great place to start to help manage constipation. You should aim to hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat 2-3 times.
Lie your child down with their feet flat against a wall, and straighten their legs out as much as they can. Encourage them to lift their toes and top part of the foot off the wall, whilst keeping their heels against the wall.
Whilst sitting up with legs out straight, encourage your child to reach forward to try to touch their toes. They might need help to keep their legs flat on the floor.
Hip Adductor Stretch
Encourage your child to lie on their back and pretend they are making snow angels, stretching their arms and legs out as wide as they can!
Hip Flexor Stretch
Whilst lying on their tummy, ask your child to push up with their arms, making sure their hips stay flat on the floor.
Back Extensor Stretch
Lie your child on their back. Encourage them to bring their knees up towards their chest, as if scrunching up into a ball.
Whilst your child is sitting up, place a toy behind them on their left hand side, and see if they can reach around towards it. Do the same for the right hand side, and encourage them to try to reach with both hands for more of a stretch.
Whilst sitting up, challenge your child to reach up to the sky as high as they can. Whilst their arms are in the air, ask them to lean to the left and then the right, for 10 seconds each side.
Lay your child down on their back and gently move their legs in a bicycle motion. Not only will this help with constipation, but it helps develop good leg and trunk muscles.
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- Awan, W.A. and Masood, T. 2016. Role of stretching exercises in the management of constipation in spastic cerebral palsy. Journal of Ayub Medical College, 28(4), pp. 798-801.
- Awan, W.A. and Masood, T. 2021. Effectiveness of physical therapy for improving constipation in spastic cerebral palsy. Alternative therapies in Health and Medicine, 27(1), pp. 178-184
- Penagini F, Mameli C, Fabiano V, Brunetti D, Dilillo D, Zuccotti GV. 2015. Dietary intakes and nutritional issues in neurologically impaired children. Nutrients, 7(11), pp. 9400-9415.
- Veugelers R, Benninga MA, Calis. EA et al. 2010. Prevalence and clinical presentation of constipation in children with severe generalized cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurology, 52(9):e216-e221