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Physical therapy can help treat urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence is not a sign of aging. Men and women of all ages can experience these symptoms, and you don’t have to endure it.

The first step in treating urinary incontinence is usually non-invasive. In particular, physical therapy can be used to treat stress urinary incontinence (SUI), urge urinary incontinence (UUI) or a mixture of both, called mixed urinary incontinence.

Any increase in intra-abdominal pressure, such as coughing, sneezing or exertion that causes urine to leak is called stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Urge urinary incontinence (UUI) is a sudden desire to urinate with leakage of urine. This can be due to an overactive bladder, which is a sudden and frequent urge to urinate.

How therapy helps

With a new patient, physical therapists will conduct a thorough evaluation of the patient’s condition and will explain to the patient how multiple systems within the body might be contributing to their incontinence.

“We conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the body’s flexibility and strength, which includes muscles in the back, core and pelvic floor,” says physical therapist Kathy Renner with Ascension Via Christi Therapy Center. “One of the most common systems contributing to the problem is the nervous system, particularly with nerves in the spine. If these nerves are inflamed or irritated, dysfunction can occur.”

When the problem is identified, the therapist can work with the patient to correct this problem.

“Physical therapy can conservatively address some of the underlying causes of incontinence," says physical therapist Polly Holcomb, also with Ascension Via Christi Therapy Center. "The patients usually experience improvement in their symptoms of incontinence and also feel better overall.”

Physical therapy treatment for SUI, UUI and mixed urinary incontinence consists of:

  • Reduction of nerve tension/inflammation through manual therapy and exercise.
  • Exercises that strengthen weak muscles (includes core muscles and pelvic floor).
  • Behavioral modification: Education regarding posture, hydration, caffeine consumption and urination habits.

The usual treatment length is about eight to 12 PT sessions, and many patients experience a significant reduction in frequency and volume of incontinence following adoption of these treatments.

About Phoebe Richardson