Michael Patkin's

A cure for constipation?

Publication history, Reflections & comments



Surgery & ergonomics


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Editorials, book reviews




Sir: Constipation is so common and troublesome a complaint that any measure which relieves it is.. worth documenting. Many doctors must have older patients for whom bulking agents have failed as a treatment for this condition.

Recently a 58-year-old woman was referred to me with this problem. She had been on a low residue diet for diverticulitis till six years ago, and had an anterior resection for diverticulitis three years ago. She said that she felt "that her bowel was dead," with bowel actions five days apart, and headaches, nausea, and anxiety.

As her condition had resisted the gamut of treatment, in desperation I advised her to roll a tennis ball along the line of her colon, which I outlined on her abdomen with a felt tip pen, starting from the caecum. After six weeks of tennis ball massage, she is having regular daily bowel actions, and says she has never felt better.

While a single case may be merely a flash in the pan, if this type of treatment. is valid it could deal with an enormous backlog. For more than academic interest, I should be grateful for comments from other doctors who may prescribe this treatment, to gain some idea of its usefulness.

Michael Patkin,
Wood Terrace. Whyalla. SA 5600.


A cure for constipation?
Medical Journal of Australia,

Constipation and other bowel problems are the butt [sic] of ribaldry among medical students, and adults who haven't completely escaped their juvenalia.

However to victims of problems there, it's another story.

A myth I thought to be true for years was the prayer to the ancient Roman goddess Latrina, "Let my offering soft yet solid be".I read it in about 1952 in Speculum, the magazine of the Medical Students Society at the University of Melbourne. An internet seach found no provenance for it.

A follow-up letter published in the MJA described satisfactory results using this technique in a long-term facility caring for paraplegics and quadraplegics.