An estimated 13 million Americans suffer from bladder control issues, also known as urinary incontinence, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Treatment ranges from medication to surgery, which can sometimes feel daunting. That’s why some people are turning to physical therapy to find relief – and it’s working.
What Is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control or leaking urine. This problem can range from occasionally leaking urine when coughing or sneezing to suddenly having the urge to urinate and not being able to get to a toilet in time.
What Causes Urinary Incontinence?
This condition impacts twice as many women than men due to their unique reproductive health. Women can experience bladder control issues because of:
- Pregnancy: The hormonal changes experienced during pregnancy can lead to stress incontinence, which is when urine leaks because of coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or heavy lifting.
- Childbirth: Having a vaginal delivery can weaken the muscles needed for bladder control – sometimes leading to a dropped pelvic floor.
- Hysterectomy: Any surgery involving a woman’s reproductive system can damage the pelvic floor muscles.
- Menopause: Women produce less estrogen during this time. Estrogen helps keep the urethra and lining of the bladder healthy – so when estrogen levels decrease, the deterioration of these tissues can cause incontinence.
That said, both men and women can experience urinary incontinence due to a range of other issues, including :
- Age: As bladder muscles age, the bladder’s capacity to store urine can decrease. In addition, involuntary bladder contractions can occur more often as you get older.
- Enlarged prostate: This condition – which blocks the flow of urine through the urethra – especially impacts older men.
- Prostate cancer: Bladder control issues can happen because of untreated prostate cancer, but are more often a side effect of prostate cancer treatments.
- Neurological disorders: Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, a brain tumor or a spinal injury can cause urinary incontinence.
How Can PT Help?
Based on your individual evaluation, a physical therapist will create an individualized treatment program to improve your pelvic-floor muscle function. Physical therapy can help gain control over symptoms, and reduce the need for pads and special undergarments, incontinence medications, and possibly surgery.
Physical therapy teaches patient how to sense the movement of pelvic-floor muscles by tensing and releasing them, and to strengthen them using Kegel exercises. In addition, a physical therapist may recommend strengthening your back and core to help your pelvic muscles work better.
Every case is unique. At Countryside Orthopaedics and Physical Therapy, your physical therapist can design a specialized program to help address your specific bladder control needs.