Skip to main content

May 03, 2023

Can Physical Therapy Help Urinary Incontinence?

For many people, urinary incontinence isn’t something they like to talk about, but it impacts virtually every part of a person’s life. Activities become harder to do, heading out for lunch with a friend is worrisome, and monitoring how much you drink becomes a habit.

The condition isn’t uncommon, though. It’s estimated that 13 million people in the US suffer from incontinence. Of those, 85% are women. While it may seem like something you have to live with, that’s not the case for many people. Physical therapy for urinary incontinence can be highly effective and may change the path of your life as a result.

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence refers to bladder control problems. For many people, this leads to leakage of urine when a person isn’t going to the bathroom. It can happen when a person is active, sitting, or sleeping. Some people also struggle with starting and holding onto a stream of urine.

The condition varies in severity ranging from mild cases that only occur when a person sneezes or laughs hard to severe cases in which there is no control over when the bladder releases urine.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence occurs in various forms and for multiple reasons. Some of the most common include the following:

Stress Incontinence

This is one of the most common forms and often occurs in mild cases. Urine leakage occurs when a person engages in some type of movement that puts too much pressure on the bladder. This may mean a person has leaks when lifting something heavy, laughing, coughing, sneezing, or running.

This form often occurs due to a weakening or poor coordination of the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles help the bladder to function properly but can, especially over time and in women, weaken, creating a lack of bladder control.

Urge Incontinence

Some people feel a sudden onset of the need to go to the bathroom right away. Called urge incontinence, this condition often involves a dash to the bathroom that sometimes is too late. This type of condition often occurs due to a lack of pelvic floor muscles that reduce the urge to urinate. Some with this condition suffer from it because their bladder has spasms that increase the need to go.

There are various reasons for this occurring, and in some cases, it can be a learned situation. (ie. going “just in case” you’re leaving the house, cleaning, or you’re already awake at night) However, bladder or muscle inflammation can also be a factor in this condition.

Functional Incontinence

This form of incontinence occurs for reasons that are outside of the area of pelvic floor muscle damage. It could be due to joint pain or muscle weakness, especially in those who suffer from hip pain or low (weak) core. It may be brought on by mental health conditions like confusion or dementia or as a result of depression and anger. Low mobility can also be a factor.

Not all forms of urinary incontinence can be treated with physical therapy, and some forms of functional incontinence fall into that area. However, improving mobility and strengthening all muscles may offer some assistance.

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

Each type of urinary incontinence is a bit different in terms of what the cause is. For some people, it occurs due to damage to the pelvic floor muscles, while for others, it is due to muscle weakness, which is common, for example, in women who have children. In many cases, improving the function of the pelvic floor muscles can directly impact urinary health.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

Pelvic floor therapy for urinary incontinence can be one of the best ways to find long-lasting relief. A physical therapist can offer help in determining what is occurring and why and then work with you to create a regimen of exercise that can help improve incontinence.

There are some situations that require additional care and surgical procedures. However, for many people, the first step in treatment is to seek out physical therapy for urinary incontinence because of the numerous benefits it offers in a non-invasive manner.

The following are some of the therapies that may be beneficial to those with urinary incontinence:

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Working with a physical therapist to learn how to do pelvic floor exercises is a solid first step for many people. That includes learning how to do Kegels, a specific type of contracting and releasing of these muscles to build strength in them. Physical therapists can teach breathing and timing methods that can make these exercises more effective as well.

Bladder Training

Your physical therapist can also work with you to learn how to train your bladder – which allows you to extend the amount of time you have between voiding. Doing this allows people who may have urge incontinence to teach the bladder to work in a more effective manner.

Manual Therapy

In some situations, soft tissue mobilization techniques can also be used. This works to tighten up the muscles and improves their overall function. It also creates improved posture at the pelvic floor, which supports the bladder’s natural function better.

In this type of treatment, physical therapists may show patients how to use tools, like a vaginal dilator, to help them better work on exercises at home. Don’t be afraid of physical therapy like this – it can be very private and provides significant improvement in many people.

Other treatment options may exist as well. That includes biofeedback therapy and electrical stimulation. 

Allow Rock Valley Physical Therapy to Help You

Take a few minutes to get to know Rock Valley Physical Therapy. Our physical therapists can help you with many of the needs you have, including pelvic floor therapy for urinary incontinence. We strive to provide our patients with exceptional care and attention to their very specific needs. We listen, teach, and guide in a supportive environment.

Find a clinic in your area now. Schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options.