Incontinence is a common issue that many women face, far more common than you may initially think. According to the ISCP, One in four women experiences urine incontinence, which is the involuntary leakage of urine. The prevalence of this issue rises with age, with reports indicating that up to 75 per cent of women aged 65 and above experience urine leakage. However, with the right approach and guidance, you can improve your quality of life and reduce the impact of stress and urge incontinence.
In this blog post, we will focus on the positive steps you can take to manage these conditions. We’ll explore the differences between stress and urge incontinence and offer physiotherapy techniques specifically tailored to help women manage these conditions. Let’s dive in and discover how you can take control of your bladder health!
Stress incontinence is a common condition experienced by many women, particularly those who have gone through pregnancy and childbirth, experienced menopause, or are ageing. It occurs when the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder and help control urination, become weak or damaged. This can lead to involuntary urine leakage when pressure or strain is placed on the bladder, such as during physical activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects.
The severity of stress incontinence can vary, with some women experiencing only occasional leaks, while others may find it significantly impacts their daily life. This condition can be particularly challenging for women who are active, as it can limit their ability to engage in activities they enjoy.
Fortunately, physiotherapy techniques can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control, reducing or even eliminating stress incontinence symptoms. By working with a physiotherapist, you can learn exercises and techniques to strengthen these muscles and improve bladder control.
Urge incontinence is another common type of incontinence experienced by women. It is characterised by a sudden and strong urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine before reaching the bathroom. It can be caused by an overactive bladder, which is a bladder that contracts too frequently or at inappropriate times. This condition can be caused by nerve damage, bladder irritation, or certain medications.
Urge incontinence can be particularly disruptive to daily life, as it can be difficult to predict when the urge to urinate will occur. This can lead to avoiding social situations, limiting physical activities, and reducing your quality of life.
It’s important to remember that urge incontinence is a common condition that many women experience. Seeking help from a physiotherapist can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and guidance.
To find out more about possible causes of Incontinence download the ISCP’s guide to Incontinence with Fiona Healy.
How can Physiotherapy help?
Physiotherapy offers effective methods for managing both stress and urge incontinence in women. Various techniques can be employed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises are a type of exercise that involves contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor and improve bladder control. A physiotherapist can guide you on the correct technique to perform these exercises effectively.
Incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine is simple and can be done discreetly, without the need for any equipment. Here are some tips to get started, based on guidance from the HSE:
- Learn to locate and activate your pelvic floor muscles: To do this, try to stop the flow of urine mid-stream or tighten the muscles around the vagina and anus as if you are trying to hold in gas. Once you can identify these muscles, you can practice activating them without the need for urination.
- Start with the basics: Begin by tightening your pelvic floor muscles for 3-5 seconds, then relax for the same amount of time. Repeat this 10 times and aim to do this exercise 3 times a day.
- Progress gradually: As your muscles strengthen, you can increase the duration of the contraction and the number of repetitions. Aim to hold each contraction for up to 10 seconds and perform up to 20 repetitions, 3 times a day.
- Incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your daily activities: You can do pelvic floor exercises while sitting, standing, or lying down. Try incorporating them into your daily routine, such as while brushing your teeth, watching TV, or waiting in line at the grocery store.
- Stay consistent: Consistency is key to seeing results from pelvic floor exercises. Make a habit of performing them daily, and remember that it may take several weeks to notice an improvement in your symptoms.
- Seek professional guidance: If you are unsure whether you are performing pelvic floor exercises correctly or if you are not seeing any improvement, it is essential to seek guidance from a qualified physiotherapist. A women’s health physiotherapist can assess your individual needs, provide tailored advice, and help you to develop an effective exercise program.
Bladder training is a technique that involves gradually increasing the time between trips to the bathroom. This can help improve bladder control and reduce the frequency of urge incontinence episodes.
Proper bladder habits can include strategies like going to the bathroom at regular intervals to avoid sudden urges, using the restroom before going to bed and when waking up, and drinking enough water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. In contrast, improper toileting habits like holding urine for too long, straining during bowel movements, and rushing during trips to the restroom can contribute to weakened pelvic floor muscles and incontinence.
Physiotherapists can also provide guidance on how to properly position oneself during urination and defecation, as well as how to properly wipe after using the restroom to avoid any unnecessary strain on the pelvic floor muscles.
By educating women on proper bladder habits and toileting techniques, physiotherapy can help prevent further damage to the pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control, ultimately helping to manage incontinence more effectively.
Making lifestyle changes can also help manage incontinence.
- avoiding caffeine and alcohol,
- maintaining a healthy weight,
- staying hydrated.
Electrical stimulation is a technique that involves using a small device to deliver electrical impulses to the pelvic floor muscles. This can help strengthen the muscles and improve bladder control.
Biofeedback is a technique that involves using sensors to monitor muscle activity in the pelvic floor. This can help you learn how to properly contract and relax the muscles during pelvic floor exercises.
Useful Links and Resources
- Chartered Physiotherapy in Women’s Health & Continence Leaflet Leaflet
- Pelvic Floor Exercise Booklet
- What every woman should know about her bladder Flyer
It’s worth noting that the effectiveness of physiotherapy for managing incontinence varies depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s response to treatment. However, with regular practice and guidance from a physiotherapist, many women have reported significant improvements in their bladder control and overall quality of life.
It’s important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist, if you are experiencing any symptoms of incontinence. They can assess your condition and recommend an appropriate treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Remember, incontinence is a common condition and there is no need to suffer in silence.