Incontinence – It's normal, but should it be?

Short answer – No!
Now for the long answer. One quarter of women in the US have some sort of pelvic disorder including urinary incontinence. Most think it is something that is normal after having children or just part of the aging process but this simply isn’t the truth. Physical therapy and pelvic floor strengthening has been shown to be an effective treatment for both men and women dealing with urinary incontinence.
There are different types of incontinence and your treatment may vary depending on which type is most similar to your symptoms. Determining the difference between stress or urge incontinence is the first step in determining the appropriate treatment.
Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder spasms, causing you to leak urine in large or small amounts. This can happen frequently. There may or may not be muscle weakness in the pelvic floor.
Stress incontinence occurs when there is increased pressure on the bladder (sneezing, laughing, coughing, lifting) and is often due to weakness in the muscles of the pelvic floor. This weakness can be due to childbirth, surgery or trauma, and lack of exercise. People with stress incontinence are prime candidates for physical therapy! Your physical therapist will help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles as well as help you learn how to lift or move with good body mechanics.
Functional incontinence means that there is another primary condition that is affecting bladder control – including joint pain, confusion or dementia, environmental factors (bathroom is too far away), or psychological issues (including depression).
You can also have a combination of different types of incontinence. Your physician or physical therapist will be able to help you determine which category you fit in best and what the most appropriate treatment will be.
If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, keep a bladder diary to help you see the patterns that emerge. You could also try avoiding common bladder irritants (click here for a full list) and check in with your physical therapist for help in exercising and lifting correctly. If this is a new condition, be sure to talk with your physician about your symptoms to make sure there isn’t a more serious cause for your incontinence.
-Erin Bell PT, DPT


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