Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Chronic Constipation: Facts vs. Myths

Learn how to relieve chronic constipation.
WebMD Feature

Constipation, the most common digestive complaint in the U.S. population, can make life miserable. Not only does constipation make you feel bloated, headachy, and irritable, but relieving constipation -- especially long-term or chronic constipation -- is time consuming and expensive. Each year in the U.S., chronic constipation leads to around 2.5 million doctor visits -- and medication costs of many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Chronic Constipation: What Is It?

The definition of chronic constipation varies among different people. For some people, chronic constipation means infrequent bowel movements for weeks at a time. To others, chronic constipation means straining or having difficulty passing stools. For instance, many describe chronic constipation as feeling like you need to have a bowel movement, but no matter how long you sit, it just won't happen. With chronic constipation, you may have hard or formed stools, small stools, or a combination of infrequent hard, formed or small stools.

Generally, the definition of chronic constipation is a stool frequency of less than three per week that lasts several months. Still, experts believe that many who think they suffer from chronic constipation may actually underestimate the frequency of their bowel habits, so this definition may not be accurate.

Chronic Constipation: What's Normal? What's Not?

If you or a loved one has chronic constipation, much of the anxiety and distress may result from a lack of knowledge about this problem. Not only are there magnified fears about what might be causing the problem, the discomfort of chronic constipation itself can be debilitating. Constipation may slow your performance at work and even cause you to miss recreational activities. That's why it's important to know the facts about chronic constipation and talk to your doctor about your personal situation.

Let's look at some chronic constipation myths and then identify the truths:

Chronic Constipation Myth: If you don't have one bowel movement a day, it's abnormal.

The Truth: Less than 50% of people have one bowel movement a day.

Chronic Constipation Myth: Fewer than five or six bowel movements a week is considered to be chronic constipation.

The Truth: 95% of adults have bowel movements between three and 21 times per week. The entire range -- even just three bowel movements a week -- is normal.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
top foods for probiotics
couple eating at cafe
sick child
Woman blowing bubble gum

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Woman with stomach pain
diet for diverticulitis
what causes diarrhea