Physical Therapy for Incontinence – In Men and Women
What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. 25 million Americans experience this condition, and ¼ of women between the ages of 18 and 59 have urinary incontinence. There are different types of incontinence, with the most common being stress and urge incontinence.
- Stress incontinence is when leakage happens during coughing, sneezing, or laughing.
- Urge incontinence is a result of the bladder being overactive or unstable. People with urge incontinence often often have triggers that cause the involuntary loss of urine, such as hearing running water.
What Can Be Done?
Physical therapy can be used to effectively treat urinary incontinence. A typical program consists of a combination of exercise and education. Exercise is used to improve the strength of the muscles of the pelvic floor, providing better support to the bladder and improving your ability to control the flow of urine. Education helps you learn how the bladder normally functions and changes you can make to improve your symptoms. Examples of these changes are making sure that you are adequately hydrated, avoiding “just in case” peeing, and dietary changes to avoid bladder irritants like spicy foods, citrus fruits, caffeine, and carbonated beverages.
A common example of a pelvic floor strengthening exercise is the Kegel. Although this exercise is well-known and commonly attempted, it is frequently done incorrectly. Many people substitute muscles that are not part of the pelvic floor during a Kegel like the abdominals, glutes, or hip adductors.
To perform a correct Kegel:
- Avoid contracting your abdominals or glutes
- Tighten the muscles as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine
- Then imagine a string pulling those muscles up towards your belly button.
Physical therapy can help you take back control of your bladder and stop worrying about where the next restroom is. If you’re experiencing urinary incontinence, a pelvic PT can provide a comprehensive evaluation and develop a treatment plan specifically for you!