Exercise & Fitness Community
5.8k Members
Avatar universal

Can a bowel obstruction be caused by exercise?

(I'm 31, female) I'm not one to have constipation very often, so I was very surprised when I noticed I was constipated last Saturday. I went to the gym on Friday and was feeling a lot of pain all over my body, but thought it was just the regular muscular pain I feel next day after exercise and I thought the constipation was due to dehydration, since I had been to the gym all week and didn't drink enough water.

On Sunday, though, I woke up with abnormal abdominal pain, extreme cramping, swelling all over my ab and stomach area. I had a little fever, dizziness and stayed in bed all day. I took laxatives, prune juice, milk of magnesia, but didn't get much results.

By Monday my constipation turned into diarrhea, but not the "regular" diarrhea I expected. I could only pass very little amounts of stool every few hours, even though it was all diarrhea. My husband said it could be a bowel obstruction, that would explain not being able to empty my bowels completely. I'm a very healthy person and as I said, I don't get constipated very often, so the only reason I can think of to have a bowel obstruction is an abdominal injury caused by exercise.

I've been Googling it for days, but haven't been able to find out if it's possible or not to injure your bowels with exercise. I've done one exercise on Friday which I pulled the weights with my ab muscles and I've thought about the potential to cause injury to my internal organs before but my trainer said it wouldn't happen...

Yesterday (Tuesday) I had more diarrhea, but still I feel that I'm not getting enough out of my bowels. Today I woke up better, no fever, no swelling and now that I'm not swollen all over I can feel exactly where it hurts, about 4 o'clock from my belly button, 2 1/2 inches bellow and 2 inches to the left of my belly button (if I press down it hurts, but I don't have cramping anymore). I have very little appetite and if I eat I get a little cramping.

Today I still have the same short and spaced diarrhea, but since I feel better I think this will go away and I won't have to go to the doctor (I only go to the doctor if I'm dying...). I just wanted to know if my hypothesis may be correct (the exercise causing a bowel obstruction) and if because I'm feeling better it's a sign that even though my bowels are still not working well, I'm on the right track to get better and don't need to see a doctor.
14 Responses
Avatar universal
Don't you think it's about time to make an appointment with a Colon/rectal MD?
It could be nothing or it could even be a twisted bowel see a doctor!
Avatar universal
I'm fine now, don't need a doctor. I just wanted to know what happened, I really needed to know if the exercise could have caused something like that. Anybody?
Avatar universal
The answer to your question NO!
Avatar universal
I don't see "doctor" or "nurse" by your name, so I don't think you have any authority to answer this question...
Avatar universal
Then you have to start responding to all the forums just copy and paste your last post to all the other posts that don't have an MD
Avatar universal
P.S. Did you see an MD
Avatar universal
You know, I posted my question here because I saw other posts where doctors and nurses answered the questions. I can even see on the right column where the site shows "recent doctor visits", so I thought this was a place where it was common to get professional opinion, but I don't know, it must be a rare thing, because all this time, you were the only one that even bothered answering. I'm sorry but I can trust your opinion since you may be trying to be helpful but what do you know? I called my doctor's office and talked to the registered nurse on the phone and she said yes, my situation could have been caused by exercise, but you were quick to say "the answer to your question is NO" as if you were a professional that had seen hundreds of cases like this before...
Avatar universal
I was quick to post because I have a friend who had a twisted bowel and is athletic her MD
said it hadn't been because of athletics. What can I tell you!
1711589 tn?1308316371
Normally, exercise relieves my constipation, but one never knows. I would get it checked out. My aunt had the same symptoms because her colon twisted around itself. She ended up having part of her colon removed and spending weeks in the hospital. I don't want to worry you, but make an appointment just in case.
1711789 tn?1361311607
Hi Guys!

Well, aggressive exercise may be traumatic to internal organs but is rarely directly associated with bowel obstruction. The cause of constipation or bowel obstruction post exercise is often secondary to another cause involved like dehydration, infection/ inflammation etc. In your case there may be a coupe of factors involved like dehydration and probably a mild GI infection/ inflammation since you did mention tenderness below your belly button. I hope your symptoms have resolved by now. Another cause involved in most cases is inadequate fiber/ roughage in diet. Exercise in such cases just acts as a precipitant by causing dehydration and would not directly cause bowel obstruction. The intermittent diarrhoea that you had described later was probably because of laxatives. To avoid this situation in future you should eat plenty of fruits, green leafy vegetables, bran and high-fiber cereals. Dried fruits such as apricots, dates and prunes are a great way to get fiber while backpacking. It is also important to maintain adequate body hydration when exercising or otherwise. In acute situations it is advised to take plenty of water or liquids (it would be better to add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar a glass). Another easier way to get rid of impacted stools is taking stool softener (laxative, milk of magnesia or a glycerin suppository). If your symptoms do not tend to relieve themselves with these recommendations or you have severe associated pain or there is associated blood in stools; it is advised to see a primary care physician/ gastroenterologist, since this could indicate more serious causes like infections/ inflammations, twisting/ bowel rupture, ulcers, GI growths etc. Hope this information was helpful.

Take care!
Avatar universal
The answer to your question is "yes."  It happened to me every time I did 2 things:  Stomach Crunches, and a back exercise which consisted of lying flat on my stomach while gently arching my back by slightly raising my head, hands, and legs.

I, like you, hit the internet when I was going through this, trying to find a connection between exercise and twisted bowel.  No dice!  I guess people are pretty much like I was, at first...suspicious and highly doubtful that I was on the right track.

The moral of this is we need to trust our 'gut instinct' - no pun intended. ;)

It took me quite a while to 'connect the dots.'  Unfortunately, before I did I had a number of serious bouts with constipation, the worst one lasted for over a month...complete blockage with no type of BM or sound (stomach rumbling) whatsoever. I was really sick. This one landed me in the emergency room.

Finally, after I accepted my OWN diagnosis - which no doctors could figure out, surprise,surprise - I stopped doing those things (exercises) which stressed my stomach muscles.

I still exercise, but for the abdominal muscles I now just concentrate on good posture while holding them taut, and it works!  :)

Oh, and don't think it will help to go to a doctor at this point.  Doctors wouldn't recognize a twisted bowel if it hit them squarely in the face.....and you willl likely be subjected to several invasive, uncomfortable and useless tests.  
Avatar universal
I had extensive abdominal surgery which involved removal of omentum, part of colon, gall bladder, and appendix. In the two years since, I have had so many bowel obstructions requiring hospitalization, that I can tell you which brand of NG Tube I prefer. These almost always occurred within 24 to 48 hours of physical exercise. Even a long walk can trigger them for me. I have had many close calls, and I find for me, when I feel the symptoms coming on, I have to lie down and drink plenty of gatorade. Water doesn't seem to work, so there may be something to do with the electrolytes or glucose. Lying on my back allows my intestines to relax and untangle themselves, if they haven't been tangled too severely.
I have recently had success avoiding obstructions by doing the following things: lie down for an hour mid-day, each day, drink a lot of fluids, and maintaining a low residual diet, avoiding the following foods: salads, medium to high fiber foods, nuts & seeds, dehydrated foods.
Thanks. Good info.  I’m trying to figure out if using a torso machine and crunches at the gym caused my Bowels to kink off from scar tissue I have from past surgeries.  
Have an Answer?
Top Healthy Living Answerers
Avatar universal
Arlington, VA
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
14 super-healthy foods that are worth the hype
Small changes make a big impact with these easy ways to cut hundreds of calories a day.
Forget the fountain of youth – try flossing instead! Here are 11 surprising ways to live longer.
From STD tests to mammograms, find out which screening tests you need - and when to get them.
Tips and moves to ease backaches
Here are 12 simple – and fun! – ways to boost your brainpower.