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Urinary incontinence is any undesired leakage of urine that can happen anytime during the day or night.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 13 million people in the
United States have urinary incontinence.
Our senior physical therapists can design
specialized treatment programs to help people with urinary incontinence
- gain control over their symptoms and
- reduce the need for medication and
What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is any forms or timings of undesired leakage of urine.
this condition may have trouble starting the urine stream or holding
urine. Urinary incontinence involves the muscles of the pelvic floor.
These muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvic bones and run front to
back, forming a hammock structure that lifts to support the internal
organs and controls the sphincter muscles.
The same pelvic-floor muscles also
- support the low back
- stabilize the pelvic bones and
- help with
Reports indicate that women may be more likely than men to have urinary
incontinence; but that being said, the condition in men may be underreported.
There are different types of urinary incontinence, including:
- Stress incontinence. This occurs when there is
increased intra-abdominal pressure and the pelvic-floor muscles do not
have the control to maintain continence. Those with stress incontinence
leak urine during a physical activity, such as playing a sport, or
simply laughing or sneezing.
- Urge incontinence. People with urge incontinence can experience a sudden, strong need to pass urine, and leak before reaching the bathroom.
- Mixed incontinence. Some people experience both stress and urge incontinence.
- Functional incontinence. Even without an intense urge to urinate, people with functional incontinence may leak urine on the way to the bathroom.
- Urinary frequency. Some people feel the need to empty the bladder frequently throughout the day and more than once during the night.
The pelvic-floor muscles surround the urethra, and help to keep it
closed during times when pressure is placed on the bladder.
stress incontinence can result from a weakness and/or lack of support in
the pelvic-floor muscles. It can happen with laughing, sneezing, or
coughing, or with exercise or activities such as lifting.
stress incontinence often have pelvic-floor muscle dysfunction as a
- Pregnancy and childbirth, which can put stress or pressure on the bladder and possibly cause trauma to the pelvic-floor muscles
- Episiotomy (a surgical procedure sometimes used to ease childbirth)
- Injury or trauma, such as a pelvic fracture
- Inflammation, such as cystitis
- Surgery in the vagina or rectum
- Lack of exercise, or a sedentary lifestyle
A strong and coordinated contraction of the pelvic-floor muscles
helps to decrease the urgency to urinate and helps keep the urethra
closed. Patients with urge incontinence may lack this control due to
pelvic-floor weakness or tightness, or may experience spasms that
contribute to uncontrolled bladder contractions.
Urge incontinence may
also be increased by nervous conditions, such as anxiety.
Urge incontinence can also be a learned behavior. For example, if
someone always goes to the bathroom when arriving home from work, they
can begin to associate getting home from work with going to the
bathroom. After some time, that person can begin to feel the urge to go
to the bathroom on the way home. This high-urgency feeling may lead to
Foods, such as caffeine and sugar, acidic foods, and smoking can also serve to
irritate the pelvic floor. The irritation can cause inflammation and/or
make the bladder lining contract more, contributing to urge
The causes of functional incontinence are not related directly to the bladder or pelvic-floor muscles, and include:
- Joint pain or muscle weakness (ie, low back, core, pelvis, hips) that make movement difficult
- Confusion, dementia, or delirium
- Psychological problems such as depression or anger
- The use of devices such as a walker, which tends to slow down one's movement
- Environmental barriers, such as obstacles (rugs, furniture) that block easy access to a bathroom
A person with an “overactive bladder” feels the need to empty it
frequently throughout the day, and has to get up more than once during
the night to urinate.
Sensitivities to certain foods or beverages can
cause urinary frequency.
How Is incontinence Diagnosed?
Our senior physical therapist will perform a thorough examination to
identify the causes of your urinary incontinence, and will ask you to
describe your symptoms and your daily experiences.
They may assess
muscles of your pelvis, hip, and low back
- the coordination,
strength, and flexibility of the muscles of your pelvic floor
We also may refer you to a physician for
additional tests, such as urodynamic testing, diagnostic ultrasound, or
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show any pelvic-floor muscle
problems, to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
how our senior physiotherapists can help
Based on the evaluation results, we will create
an individualized treatment program to improve your pelvic-floor muscle
function. Your physical therapist can help you:
- Gain control over your symptoms
- Reduce the need for pads and special undergarments, incontinence medications, and possibly surgery
Treatments to Improve Pelvic-Floor Muscle Function
We will teach you how to "find" (sense the
movement of) your pelvic-floor muscles by tensing and releasing them. We will design an exercise program based on your
condition to help you improve your pelvic-floor muscle function so you
can better control your bladder.
Your treatments may include:
- Kegel exercises. The Kegel exercise is performed by squeezing the sphincter muscles or imagining that you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
- Biofeedback. Depending on your symptoms and level
of comfort, we may gently employ electrodes to
measure your pelvic-floor muscle activity. The biofeedback obtained can
help make you more aware of the correct way to use your pelvic-floor
- Muscle strengthening exercises. We will teach you specific exercises to stretch and strengthen
other important muscles that help support proper bladder function.
- Electrical stimulation. We may apply gentle electrical stimulation to help improve your awareness of your muscle function.
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