According to the Canadian Continence Foundation:
- Nearly 10% of the Canadian population experience some form of urinary incontinence in their lifetime (That’s 3.3 million Canadians!)
- Only 26% of those experiencing incontinence have discussed it with their doctor
- Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians over the age of 35 suffer from overactive bladder
Types of Incontinence Treated by Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy
- Stress Urinary Incontinence
- Leakage of urine with coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, exercising, or doing any activity that causes an increase in abdominal pressure that is stronger than the pressure at the urethral sphincter
- Urge Urinary Incontinence
- Leakage of urine after a strong, overwhelming urge to urinate, and not making it to the washroom on time
- Mixed Urinary Incontinence
- A combination of symptoms from Stress Incontinence and Urge Incontinence
Causes of Urinary Incontinence
Incontinence is generally caused by weakness in the pelvic floor muscles, making it difficult for them to fully contract and close off the urethra. The most common cause of pelvic floor weakness is childbirth through vaginal delivery. As the baby travels out the vaginal opening, it creates intense stretching of the pelvic floor muscles, tissues, and nerves that often remain weakened post-partum. However, those who deliver by Caesarean Section can also experience incontinence due to overworked and fatigued pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy.
Other conditions that can cause pelvic floor dysfunction, and consequently incontinence, include: chronic coughing (such as in asthma or “smoker’s cough”); long-term constipation; obesity; poor posture; and hormonal changes that occur during menopause.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy Treatment for Incontinence
The key to improving, and even abolishing, urinary incontinence is strengthening the pelvic floor. A correct pelvic floor contraction can help improve urethral closure to prevent leakage. The stronger the muscles, the better they are at providing tight closure. However, research shows that only 50% of women can perform a kegel correctly with verbal instructions or a handout alone. Many actually push down on their pelvic floor instead of contract them. That can actually weaken them further! Hence, having your pelvic floor assessed internally by a specially trained physiotherapist is the “gold standard.”
The highest levels of research state that pelvic floor strengthening through internal treatment should be considered the first line of treatment for incontinence.
Important point to remember: Leaking is COMMON with aging and having kids, but NOT NORMAL. It simply means that your pelvic floor muscles need some help. Let’s change our perception of what’s normal and start strengthening the pelvic floor.