By Helene Mitchell – Physical Therapy Assistant
Incontinence, or “urinary leakage” is a common and treatable condition. Physical Therapy can help regain bladder control. Prior to seeking physical therapy a patient should consult with a medical doctor because incontinence can be caused from a urinary tract infection, certain medications, neurological problems or other diseases. Incontinence occurs in one out of 10 patients over the age of 65 and is more common in women than men.
If a doctor prescribes physical therapy, the physical therapist will provide the patient with exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, give a bathroom schedule and recommend changes in diet. There are several types of incontinence including; “stress incontinence”; when a sneeze, cough or laugh causes urine leakage and “urge incontinence” in which patients get a sudden urge to urinate and the muscles begin to contract & lose urine before the patient gets to the bathroom.
A physical therapist will create a plan that combines scheduled bathroom visits, dietary changes such as decreasing caffeine intake which stimulates the bladder, deep breathing for relaxation and exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Exercises to prevent incontinence:
Pelvic floor muscles support and control the bladder. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles are called “Kegel” and are easy to do any time without anyone knowing. To do a kegel, contract the muscles you would use to stop or slow the flow of urine and hold for 3 seconds then relax. It can take up to several months to build the patient to normal bladder control but most patients will see positive changes within 3-4 weeks.