If I had a dime for every time I hear a woman say, “Yes I leak a little when I laugh or sneeze, but I just deal with it,” I would be a very rich woman! Let me start this article off right by dispelling this myth once and for all: bladder leakage when you cough, laugh, or sneeze is not a normal part of aging, and you do not have to just deal with it.
The National Institute of Health reports that 50 percent of all women having occasional urinary incontinence, with about 20 percent of women over the age of 75 experiencing daily urinary incontinence. Unfortunately these numbers are just estimates, because the sad fact is that many women never report their bladder control issues because of the social stigma associated with it. One study found that women wait an average of 7 years before talking to their doctor about bladder control issues, and that only 1 in 5 ever get help at all!
This is not just your grandma’s problem! Women of all ages may experience urinary incontinence. Leakage can be caused by weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, which form a sling around the vagina (birth canal), the urethra (tube from the bladder), and the rectum. Weakened pelvic muscles can be caused by aging, pregnancy, child birth, chronic constipation, and chronic coughing. Urinary incontinence is often a socially debilitating condition, which causes many women to have to give up activities they love. The good news is that most cases of incontinence can be cured or improved with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Types of Incontinence
1. Stress Urinary Incontinence: SUI may occur because of weak pelvic floor muscles and/or a deficient urethral sphincter, causing the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any body movement which puts pressure on the bladder.
2. Urge Urinary Incontinence: Urge urinary incontinence and overactive bladder is the urgent need to pass urine and the inability to get to a toilet in time. This occurs when nerve passages along the pathway from the bladder to the brain are damaged causing a sudden bladder contraction that cannot be consciously inhibited.
3. Mixed Incontinence: Mixed incontinence is very common and occurs when symptoms of both stress and urge types of incontinence are present.
If you experience incontinence, getting a prescription from your doctor to see a physical therapist trained in pelvic floor therapy is a great place to start. The truth is, pelvic muscle weakness can contribute greatly to urinary incontinence because of the lack of support and control. The therapist will provide a thorough musculoskeletal evaluation, assessing your posture, flexibility, core strength and alignment. From there the therapist will develop an individualized treatment plan that may include: pelvic floor muscle strengthening, bladder retraining, lifestyle modifications, biofeedback, and gentle electrical stimulation of the pelvic floor muscles.
Physical therapy is an appropriate conservative treatment option for urinary incontinence, but in some cases treatment for incontinence may include medication or surgery. The good news is that there are many effective treatments available and you do not have to live with the life-limiting problem of incontinence.
To learn more about physical therapy treatments for incontinence, please call Legacy Physical Therapy at 636-225-3649 to set up a free 15 minute screening.