Urinary incontinence is accidental urine leakage that can occur when laughing, lifting, sneezing, or coughing. According to the World Health Organization it affects one in three women worldwide. The Canadian Continence Foundation also stats one in six women over 30 have urinary incontinence. Despite the major impacts it has on one’s lifestyle, it is not often discussed. People with incontinence are often embarrassed to speak about it with their health care providers, friends or family.
The main types of urinary incontinence include:
Leakage during physical exertion (sports) or during coughing or sneezing
Leakage when you need to go but don’t quite make it in time
Combination of stress and urge incontinence
Urinary incontinence affects men, women, and children. It commonly affects more women than men due to pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, hysterectomy, and the structure of the female urinary tract. Pelvic floor muscles can become stretched with childbirth or lose their strength and tone with age and menopause. Incontinence can also result from injury, infection, disease, or medical condition.
How physiotherapists help
Physiotherapists with specialized training are highly skilled at assessing and treating people with urinary incontinence.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is key for effective treatment. Following an assessment your physiotherapist will develop an individualized treatment plan. Targeted strengthening and stretching techniques, bladder and pelvic floor training and lifestyle or habit changes can often successfully treat incontinence. Sometimes special equipment (biofeedback, electric muscle stimulation) is used. Specific exercises are an effective way to increase strength, endurance and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles and stop the urinary incontinence.
Physiotherapists trained in urinary incontinence treatment will:
Take a careful history to identify your symptoms
Screen out conditions requiring medical follow-up
Discuss the impact on your lifestyle
Perform a physical examination of your back, pelvis, sacrum, pelvic floor muscles, and nerve function