A physical therapist is highly skilled in evaluating and treating various musculoskeletal and neurological conditions affecting the body. This profession focuses on assessing any underlying factors, such as strength, neuromuscular control, balance, coordination, skeletal alignment, and endurance, which may be contributing to impaired functional mobility, activity, participation, and quality of life. Of course, most people only seek physical therapy when they’re suffering from a common injury or condition, such as whiplash, tendinitis, low back pain, or ligament sprains. Perhaps lesser known is that chronic pelvic pain and dysfunction, especially issues with urinary incontinence, can respond positively to physical therapy intervention.
Urinary incontinence has a reputation of being something that only little old ladies have. However, many young people experience urinary incontinence, as well. More women are affected by urinary incontinence than men; however, it is common for men to experience it after certain procedures, such as prostate surgery. Fortunately, there are many treatments for urinary incontinence.
There are two main types of incontinence: stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Stress incontinence is caused when one experiences a urine leak due to pressure on the bladder. For example, stress incontinence can occur when exercising, lifting heavy objects, laughing, coughing, or sneezing. This is the most common type of bladder control problem in younger to middle-aged women, and it may occur around the time of menopause.
Urge incontinence is caused when there is a sudden and emergent need to urinate. Someone experiencing urge incontinence may not have enough time to make it to the toilet before leakage occurs. This type of bladder control problems is usually a result of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke.
Common conditions that may cause urinary incontinence include:
- Weak bladder muscles
- Overactive bladder muscles
- Damaged bladder nerves, typically from diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s
- Blockage from an enlarged prostate
- Difficulty getting to the bathroom in time, due to diseases such as arthritis
- Damaged pelvic floor nerves, due to injury or surgery
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Benign prostate hyperplasia
Treating Incontinence with Physical Therapy
Some people with urinary incontinence may find relief by making simple lifestyle changes. If you have stress incontinence, in which you leak urine when you cough, sneeze, or laugh, your physical therapist may advise you to limit how much you drink. If you have urge incontinence, in which you get a sudden urge to urinate and can’t always make it to the bathroom in time, your physical therapist may advise you to avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and carbonated drinks, as they can irritate the bladder and worsen the issue.
Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, known as Kegels, can sometimes help people who are living with incontinence. Kegels are combined with biofeedback techniques, in order to determine if the exercises are being performed properly. For urge incontinence, bladder retraining can also help. This involves gradually increasing the interval time between trips to the bathroom, working up to longer and longer intervals between bathroom stops.
Some other common treatments for incontinence may include, but are not limited to:
- Additional pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
- Urge suppression strategies.
- Electrical stimulation.
- Hip and core strengthening.
Devices and Absorbent Products
Protective pads and panty liners can help avoid embarrassing situations. A “pessary,” which is a plastic device inserted into the vagina, may help prevent urine leakage by supporting the neck of the bladder. This is most useful for stress incontinence.
Mild to moderate cases of common types of incontinence can be greatly improved or even cured by behavioral or exercise therapy. We can also teach you habits and techniques to reduce urgency. Even periodic incontinence is not something you have to live with – we can help!
Contact Integrated Physical Therapy for Relief!
We know that living with urinary incontinence can be limiting – and even embarrassing at times, especially when it occurs during a social setting. Our licensed physical therapists are dedicated to improving your pelvic health, quality of life, and socialization, so you can get back to living your very best life.
When you arrive for your initial consultation, one of our physical therapists will perform a physical examination to determine the strength of your pelvic floor. Your physical exam, along with an evaluation of your medical history and discussion of your symptoms, will help in determining the best route for your treatment plan.
If you are struggling with urinary incontinence and you are looking for help, contact Integrated Physical Therapy today to schedule an appointment. One of our physical therapists will get you started on the path toward urinary control and relief!