Urinary Incontinence (or leaking) is a common condition that affects women of all ages and stages. It is the inability to control when you urinate, and can be a cause of distress and embarrassment for those who suffer from it. In this article, we will outline the causes of urinary incontinence in women and then describe the treatment options available for it. Finally, we will discuss how physiotherapy can help improve urinary incontinence in women.
What causes urinary incontinence?
There are many different causes of urinary incontinence in women.
Stress urinary incontinence is when urine leaks during activities that put pressure on your bladder, such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Urge urinary incontinence is when you have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. Overactive bladder syndrome is a type of urinary incontinence
The most common cause of urinary incontinence is weak pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the bladder and help to keep it closed. If they are weak, have poor control, or lack endurance this means they can’t do their job properly and can cause urine to leak out. This will most commonly occur when the pelvic floor is under more stress or load such as during exercise or when the bladder is more full.
Some conditions that make it more likely to have urinary incontinence are:
– Pregnancy and childbirth
– Chronic cough
– Urinary tract infections
What can be done to help manage urinary incontinence in women?
There are many different treatment options available for urinary incontinence in women. The most important thing is to find the underlying cause of the problem. If the cause is weak pelvic floor muscles, then there are a few different things that can be done to strengthen them.
– Pelvic floor muscle exercises: These exercises can help to strengthen the muscles and improve urinary incontinence.
– Electrical stimulation: This is a therapy that uses electrical impulses to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles. It can be done in a physiotherapy clinic or at home with a special device.
– Biofeedback: This is a therapy that uses sensors to help you be aware of your pelvic floor muscles and learn to contract them correctly.
– Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be recommended to treat urinary incontinence. This is usually only done if other treatments have not worked.
Can I still run, lift weights and be active if it causes leaking?
Being physically active and maintaining healthy muscle tissue is important in reducing urinary incontinence.
Sometimes your physio will provide advice on what types of exercise might be less likely to cause leaking in the initial stages of recovery and they can provide a structured exercise program to help you return to the types of exercise you love leak free!
How can physiotherapy help women with urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence is best managed with a whole-body / whole-person approach which takes the following things into consideration:
- Pelvic floor muscle retraining is the gold standard treatment for stress urinary incontinence (leak wee when cough, laugh, sneeze, run, jump, lift ect)
- The whole body and whole person should be assessed to find the cause of your stress incontinence. Factors like the way you breath, co-ordinate your abdominals with pelvic floor and the way you squat, walk or run can all contribute to urinary incontinence.
- Treatment should involve an individualised exercise program tailored to you. This can sometimes involve management options such as vaginal weights, biofeedback devices, neuromuscular stimulations and pessaries
Patients who come to our clinic for a womens health physiotherapy consultation can expect the following:
- A 1 hour confidential initial consultation with a Women’s Pelvic Floor physiotherapist in a private room
- A friendly and supportive physio who will listen to your concerns and take a detailed pelvic floor questionnaire
- An examination and treatment which is tailored to YOUR goals
- Internal examination of you pelvic floor using standardised and evidence based measurements
- Treatment involves an individualised exercise program tailor to you. We will determine if you would benefit from other management options such as vaginal weights, biofeedback devices, neuromuscular stimulations, pessaries
- Pelvic floor exercises are taught to ensure you can achieve correct technique.
If you are suffering from urinary incontinence, don’t suffer in silence! There are many treatment options available that can help you manage this condition and improve your quality of life. Talk to your physiotherapist or doctor about what treatment options might be best for you or head to our Pelvic Floor Physio page to book an appointment with one of our physios.