A condition characterized by infrequent or hard bowel movements, or difficulty in having bowel movements, constipation can include pain when having a bowel movement, an inability to “go” after trying for more than ten minutes or having no bowel movement after more than three days.
Individual bowel habits are unique, so what is considered “normal” varies from person to person. Some healthy people may not have a bowel movement each day while others may have particularly soft or hard stools but have no problems passing them.
Constipation is usually caused by a lack of fiber or water, not enough physical activity, or regularly delaying going to the bathroom when you feel the urge. Stress, travel and other changes to your routine can also interfere with normal bowel function. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic floor dysfunction, pregnancy, neurological diseases, underactive thyroid or cystic fibrosis, can also be contributing factors as can certain medications.
While bouts of constipation are often treated with over-the-counter medications, sudden constipation accompanied with abdominal cramps and an inability to pass gas or stool can indicate an intestinal blockage which should be treated immediately.