Definition of Incontinence
Incontinence is defined as the involuntary loss of urine. The most common types are stress and urge incontinence. Stress incontinence is the loss of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, running, jumping etc. Urge incontinence is an increased frequency and/or urgency to urinate. Normal urinary frequency is 6-8 times in a 24 hour period.
Incontinence affects approximately 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men. Incontinence is an embarrassing topic for most people to discuss. Therefore, most people do not discuss the problem with their physicians or health care practitioners.
For women, incontinence can occur as a result of pregnancy, surgical procedures, menopause and from high impact sports such as running, gymnastics and basketball. In men, it is often caused by prostatitis or prostate surgery.
Physical Therapy Treatment for Incontinence
Physical therapy treatment for incontinence includes: education regarding healthy bladder habits, exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (those responsible for bladder and bowel control) and behavioral techniques such as bladder re-training and biofeedback assisted pelvic floor exercises.
Biofeedback is the use of auditory and/or visual feedback to properly identify the pelvic floor muscles. Biofeedback can be utilized during treatment sessions and also at home. Often times, patients are issued or can rent a biofeedback unit to use as part of their home exercise program. Treatment for incontinence is not limited to biofeedback or "kegels" alone. Functional exercises are also included in the treatment to allow full return to social activities and sport.
Although biofeedback and pelvic floor strengthening can assist many patients with incontinence, it does not preclude surgery. In fact, the technique can be beneficial before and/or after surgery.
Treatment for urinary incontinence typically consists of 8-10 once weekly physical therapy sessions along with a home exercise program to be carried out independently.