Take Control of Your Bladder5 Comments
I have been a physical therapist for twelve years and have been treating pelvic floor conditions for the last five years. It never ceases to amaze me how many of my patients have been suffering with pelvic pain, incontinence, or pelvic organ prolapse for many years and have not been educated on the benefits of physical therapy in the rehabilitation of these conditions. Many of these patients can achieve resolution of their symptoms in a relatively short period of time with physical therapy treatment.
One of the most common conditions that I treat is incontinence. An estimated 17 million women and 25 million adults in the United States suffer from urinary incontinence and only a fraction of those people are aware that physical therapy can assist them in their recovery. Incontinence can occur in people of all ages and can be due to a variety of reasons including but not limited to pregnancy and vaginal childbirth, aging or genetic factors, medical conditions, infections, and weight gain. There are several types of urinary incontinence with the most common being stress urinary incontinence, urge incontinence, and mixed incontinence.
- Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) occurs during performance of a physical activity when the pelvic floor muscles are unable to counteract the force of increased intra-abdominal pressure. People who experience SUI have leakage with activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, and exercising.
- Urge urinary incontinence occurs when the muscles of the bladder contract inappropriately causing a sudden and strong urge to urinate often independent of the amount of urine in the bladder. People who experience urge incontinence have a strong sudden urge to urinate and are unable to make it to the bathroom.
- Mixed incontinence occurs when someone experiences symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence. In addition to leaking urine, patients with mixed incontinence may also experience painful urination, increased frequency of urination, or the need to void during sleeping hours.
When receiving physical therapy for incontinence, each patient will be evaluated to determine the type of incontinence and the contributing factors. An individualized treatment plan will then be developed for each patient. Treatment may include:
- Biofeedback for education and strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles
- Posture re-education
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Lumbopelvic stabilization
- Behavior and lifestyle modification
- Bladder retraining
- Electrical stimulation
The bottom line is that urinary leakage at any age is not normal and physical therapy can allow patients to improve their quality of life. Many people are embarrassed to discuss these issues with their physician or have even been told that this is “normal or expected” after childbirth or with aging and this is not the case! If you have symptoms of urinary incontinence, please know that there are many therapists out there who specialize in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction that can help you!