Constipation is broadly defined as an unsatisfactory defecation characterized by infrequent stools, difficult stool passage or both. The common approach to the pathophysiology of constipation groups the disorder into primary and secondary causes. Primary causes are intrinsic problems of colonic or anorectal function, whereas secondary causes are related to organic disease, systemic disease or medications. The normal process of colonic transit and defecation is discussed, and the etiology of constipation is reviewed.