Women's Health and Incontinence

If you are suffering from involuntary urine leakage, you are not alone. It is estimated that 13 million people in the United States experience temporary or chronic problems with urinary incontinence, according to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Although both men and women are affected, it is more prevalent in women. Most sufferers believe that it is something they "just have to live with." It is also commonly believed to be a natural part of the aging process, which is not true. Plus, young women can also be susceptible to urinary incontinence.

Because many people are ashamed or embarrassed to discuss the problem with their physician, they never learn about the many treatment approaches available. Incontinence is a prevalent, but treatable condition.

  • Stress Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine with coughing, sneezing, laughing and jumping and is caused by weakness of the muscles in the floor of the pelvis, which support the bladder and control the flow or urine. Physical Therapy for stress incontinence involves strengthening those muscles with an individualized exercise program. This may involve electrical stimulation, biofeedback and vaginal weights. Physical therapy also emphasizes education to teach the individual how to avoid the stresses which create pressure and contribute to dropping of the bladder.

  • Urge Incontinence is involuntary bladder emptying which occurs whenever the sensation of urge is felt. Physical Therapy can address this problem utilizing behavioral techniques to retrain the bladder to hold larger volumes of urine and increase the time between voidings. Bladder retraining also inhibits the reflex which causes the sensation of urgency.

The Program
At the Incontinence Program for Women we begin with a thorough history of the patient’s condition and an evaluation. This may include a biofeedback assessment that can also be used as a teaching tool for those patients with poor awareness of pelvic floor contraction due to significant weakness.

The six to eight week program typically involves weekly physical therapy sessions. Additional biofeedback readings are taken to map a patient’s progress with muscle strengthening. Pelvic muscles, located at the bottom of the pelvis, stretch between the legs and are attached to the front, back and sides of the pelvic bone. Their function is to hold the bladder and other organs in place. Like other muscles, they can be strengthened with exercise.

We use a variety of non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical treatment methods to address urinary incontinence, including:

  • Biofeedback
  • Bladder retraining - methods to retrain the bladder to hold larger volumes of urine and increase the time between voidings and lessen the sensation of urgency.
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Exercises that strengthen the muscles that support the bladder and urethra.

If you are interested in exploring Physical Therapy for incontinence, contact your physician for a referral. The program provides non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical management of incontinence and is typically 6-8 sessions over a 3-4 month period.

For further information or questions, please call the Rehabilitation Services department at 617-243-6172 and ask to speak to Roxanne Babigian, PT.


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