More than 13 million Americans experience urinary incontinence, an undesired leakage of urine that can occur day or night. Urinary incontinence is caused by either a tightness or weakness of the muscles in the pelvic floor. These muscles are located between the front and back of the pelvis, attaching to the underside of the pelvic bones. They form a hammock shape that can raise and lower to support sphincter muscles and the internal organs, as a physical therapist, like from AmeriWell Clinics, can explain. Aside from regulating urine flow, these muscles also help stabilize pelvis bones, support the lower back and increase sexual function.
Urinary incontinence can come in many different shapes and sizes. The most common types include:
- Urge incontinence: The sudden and strong urge to urinate, resulting in leakage before arriving at the bathroom
- Stress incontinence: Inability to control urine leak during physical activities such as running, playing sports, or even sneezing
- Urinary frequency: The consistent need to empty the bladder during the day and more than once a night
If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, you should consider giving physical therapy a try. Since physical therapists are trained to work with all muscle groups, they are well equipped to prescribe certain movements and exercises that can assist you in getting your urinary incontinence under control.
During physical therapy sessions, you will work through different pelvic and abdominal movements that are meant to tone your motor control and muscle coordination. Since most cases of urinary incontinence are caused by weak or tight pelvic floor muscles, these activities are meant to strengthen your muscles so you can exercise more control over your bladder. Pelvic floor muscle contractions, or Kegels, are one of the most common exercises you will learn in physical therapy.
During your first visit to physical therapy, you will outline your surgical and medical history, as well as any sexual, gynecological or obstetrical history. These questions will help determine a cause of your urinary incontinence. For example, many women experience bladder troubles after giving birth. After discussing your medical history, the physical therapists will conduct an orthopedic exam. They will assess both your internal and external muscles, closely studying your spine, hips, walk and posture. During the exam, you will be asked to sit and stand so the physical therapists can determine if you have any prior joint or muscle issues that could affect your pelvic floor muscles. Finally, the physical therapists will tailor a specific plan involving daily exercises that, over time, will strengthen or relax your pelvic floor muscles.
If you have been experiencing urinary incontinence, find a qualified physical therapist in your area that can give you the tools you need for better bladder control.