When you think about physical therapy what comes to mind? For many people, obvious issues like back pain or mobility issues stemming from an accident or injury are what they most readily associate physical therapy with. While physical therapy is certainly helpful for these types of ailments, it can also be used to treat a wide range of other conditions. One condition that is often overlooked, as a reason to seek physical therapy, is incontinence. However, physical therapy is one of the least invasive, yet most successful ways to heal issues of incontinence. Continue reading to learn more about incontinence and how physical therapy can be utilized as a successful treatment modality.
What is Incontinence?
Incontinence can be defined as the inability to control urination or bowel movements. It is not just a temporary issue but rather a chronic problem that may require ongoing care. There are two main types of incontinence: Urinary (also known as bladder) and bowel incontinence. Both urinary and bowel incontinence can occur in either men or women. The causes of incontinence vary depending on which type of incontinence is being experienced. In some cases, there is no clear cause, while other cases result from a specific underlying medical condition. Regardless of the cause, incontinence can be very frustrating for those who experience it. It can lead to embarrassment, depression, isolation, and even social stigma. Fortunately, incontinence is a highly treatable condition.
What Are Some Common Culprits of Incontinence?
Incontinence can be caused by a variety of different illnesses, injuries, conditions, or experiences. However, some of the most common culprits for the onset of this condition are pregnancy, giving birth, hormonal changes linked to menopause, weakened pelvic floor muscles, surgery, medications, diet, trauma resulting from a pelvic fracture, and ageing. The best way to determine the reason behind incontinence issues is to visit a medical practitioner for evaluation. He or she can help you take the first steps towards recovery. Most often, family practitioners will recommend or refer you to physical therapy as the first line of treatment for any issue of incontinence.
How Can Physical Therapy Help with Incontinence?
Physical therapy for incontinence works to address the underlying reason behind your symptoms. This means that if you suffer from incontinence due to weakness in your pelvic floor muscles, your physical therapy plan will include exercises and a treatment plan targeted to strengthening them. If you have had a recent surgery, such as a hysterectomy or prostate removal, then physical therapy can help restore strength and function to your pelvic floor muscles. This promotes total body healing rather than just a band-aide cover-up for symptoms. Did you know that when it comes to issues of incontinence stemming from pregnancy and childbirth, that physical therapy can be tailored to your unique situation during both the prenatal and postpartum period!?
During this time frame, your body undergoes major changes that can affect your ability to maintain continence. Pregnancy/giving birth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles making it harder for you to hold urine and stool. Additionally, after delivery, your body goes through a process called perineal relaxation where the muscles surrounding your vagina relax allowing stool and urine to pass through without effort. These changes can leave you with weakened pelvic floor muscles and an increased risk of developing incontinence later in life. Ultimately, no matter the exact reason for your symptoms, physical therapy is helpful in restoring your muscles to proper position and functioning so you can experience peak health and ideally a full recovery from issues of incontinence.
What Are the Benefits Associated with Physical Therapy for Incontinence?
If you are experiencing incontinence related to any of the factors below, physical therapy can provide the following benefits:
- Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles – Pelvic floor muscle training is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. By using special equipment designed specifically for this purpose, you can improve your strength and endurance. You may also use other methods such as Kegel exercises which involve contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles repeatedly. These techniques often lead to a reduction or even full remission from the frustrating symptoms of incontinence. They are also low-risk, high reward as they are known to be both safe and well tolerated.
- Improve Urinary Control – Urinary incontinence occurs when there is not enough pressure on the bladder to prevent urine from passing out. When your pelvic floor muscles are strong and healthy, they can effectively support the bladder and keep it closed off until you need to go to the bathroom. However, if your muscles are weak or injured, they may not have the strength to do their job properly. This can cause leaks or accidents at inconvenient times.
- Physical therapy – Can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and restore them back to proper function. It can also help improve urinary control by strengthening your urethra (the tube that carries urine from your bladder) and improving its mobility.
- Reduce Risk of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) – Urinary tract infections are very common among women who are pregnant or have recently given birth. UTIs are caused by bacteria entering the urinary system and causing inflammation. When your pelvic floor muscles are weakened, they cannot properly contract to prevent bacteria from entering the bladder. In addition, when your pelvic floor muscles are weak, they cannot effectively push out all the urine inside the bladder. Therefore, you are at greater risk of suffering from a UTI.
- Improve Quality of Life – Physical therapy can help reduce or even fully mitigate issues of incontinence, greatly improving the quality of life for those who suffer from the embarrassment of leaks and/or the inability to control their bladder/bowels. When you choose physical therapy for incontinence, you take back control of your life. No longer will you feel like you must hide away because of the shame associated with leaking. Instead, you can live your life normally knowing that you are able to manage your own bodily functions.
How Can I Get Started with Physical Therapy for Incontinence?
The first step towards getting started with physical therapy for incontinence is to schedule an appointment with a licensed physical therapist. Once you’ve done that, your therapist will work with you to determine what type of treatment plan would best suit your needs, so you can get on the road to healing! Don’t let incontinence hold you back from living life to the fullest a single day longer! Schedule your first appointment with a physical therapist specializing in incontinence therapy today!