Becoming a mother has been one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me; it has also opened my eyes to a plethora of women’s health issues that many women just accept as a part of life, especially after having a baby. One of these issues is urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is not limited to women who have had babies; in fact many high impact athletes also experience urinary leakage. Our founder Meredith Tittle states, “Urinary incontinence has affected me most all of my life. I was a very active teen. As early as high school, I began wearing poise pads to participate in both competitive and school cheerleading. As a marathon runner in my early 20’s, long and short runs combined, were often a disaster. After learning and training in pilates, combined with my education as a physical therapist, I have been able to strengthen and reduce the amount of leakage experienced- even after 2 children! At age 41, I am still running. Don’t be ashamed, you are not alone. The team at S2S can help you.“
According to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 50% of women between the ages of 15 and 64 experience urinary incontinence, but only about a quarter of these women seek help for the issue. Incontinence has been shown to lead to decreased participation in community activities and sport and fitness activities as well as medical problems such as urinary tract infections. It also has financial effects as women with urinary incontinence spend an estimated $750 out of pocket each year for incontinence management according to a study by Subak et al.
There are 3 types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence occurs when urine is leaked with a cough, sneeze, or other exertion that increases intra-abdominal pressure.
- Urge incontinence is leakage of urine after feeling a sudden urge to urinate.
- Mixed incontinence is a combination of stress and urge types.
If you experience any of these there is good news: physical therapy can help! Incontinence typically occurs as a result of dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles, and these muscles can be trained just like any other muscle.
But, there is more to it than just kegel exercises. In fact, a study by Bump et al. showed that only about 50% of people are able to effectively perform a pelvic floor contraction, and 25% of people when asked to perform a pelvic floor contraction actually do so incorrectly in a manner that makes symptoms worse. While underactive pelvic floor muscles typically cause stress incontinence, urge incontinence can result from over active pelvic floor muscles, which requires a different type of training. Therefore, those seeking help from a Licensed Physical Therapist with experience in treating pelvic floor dysfunction see the greatest benefits.
Incontinence is not a normal result of aging or childbirth, and it should be treated. Stay tuned for information on how physical therapy can help with other women’s health issues.