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physical therapy for urinary incontinence
Image Unsplash @Jasmin Sessler

Yes, Physical Therapy for Urinary Incontinence is a Thing

Urinary Incontinence Under the Radar: Part 1

November is Bladder Health Awareness month, and Femina PT would like to shine light on something that tends to go understated, unaddressed, brushed off as “normal”: urinary incontinence. This blog series focuses on the various effects that urinary incontinence (or UI) leaves on an individual’s life, and how conservative physical therapy treatment can help combat them. Lucky for you, reader, we love to talk about it.

The story goes like this - urinary incontinence is thought to be something expected with getting older, or something that occurs during pregnancy or as a result of delivery. Because of the embarrassment and shame that surrounds such issues, patients often don’t share these problems with their provider. Or worse, if they do share, they may be dismissed as their symptoms being a normal consequence of their stage of life. There is also a lack of awareness for conservative treatments such as pelvic floor physical therapy for these issues. Patients may fear surgery, medication, routine visits, and avoid talking about it all together. However, pelvic floor physical therapy for urinary incontinence can save patients time, money, and psychological distress. The numbers speak for themselves. Up to 45% of adults with bladder control problems fail to seek care.

There are also high correlations with other health conditions, where urinary incontinence is lurking in the background. 78% of women reporting to a physical therapy clinic with chief complaints of low back pain also had urinary incontinence. One study found that older women are less likely to report urinary incontinence symptoms to a provider, and the elderly are the most at risk for the negative sequelae that typically follows. Another study found that providers do not commonly ask elderly patients about urinary incontinence, possibly due to the many pressing comorbidities physicians treat in addition to this. Yet, this continues to be a common problem for many people. When left untreated, the long term effects add up to big problems along the way.

Hot take: Urinary incontinence is not an expected part of aging!

Let’s set the record straight from the start. Urinary incontinence is not a natural part of aging and you do not have to live with it in privacy and isolation. Common does not equal normal. It’s time to leave this old way of thinking behind, and be proactive about maintaining bladder health throughout our entire healthspan, not just as we age to avoid the expensive and complex health care timeline that many face. This is an issue for many of us and it is time we start talking about it.

This should be made a priority by the health care system, the patients and patients' families that deal with it. There is a clear financial burden on the patient, and on the health care system. Costs of medical treatment, medication, complications such as infection, routine care, diagnosis and evaluations and absorbent pads, etc. add up to an impressive annual cost of an estimated $16.3 billion dollars. Those are some fancy adult diapers.

Research finds that urinary incontinence is a major reason why individuals get transferred to a skilled nursing facility. This condition puts a considerable burden on caregivers, and many cannot provide the full care for their husband, wife, parent or other family member. Unfortunately, merely being in a nursing home holds a host of risk factors that contribute to increased morbidity and mortality in these populations. There is a significant positive association between caregiver burden and incontinent patients, often times the “last straw” before admission into a nursing home. Although nursing homes provide quality care to the geriatric population, it is expensive, isolating, and poses the risk of delirium, falls, pressure ulcers, and abuse.

These problems are devastating, and so are the secondary effects of urinary incontinence. We’ll go into details on that in next week’s post that continues this discussion of physical therapy for urinary incontinence. Join us by signing up for our newsletter so you won't miss Part 2!

If you can’t wait to meet us in the meantime, just reach out and we’d love to get you scheduled with one of our doctors.

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

Read more: Testimonial by P.M.

Testimonial by R.D., age 38

"I had a severe tear during childbirth that was not stitched together correctly and therefore healed poorly. Even after having a surgery a year later to remove the scar tissue, I was still having pain, and no one could explain why -- there was no overt 'reason' to explain the pain. I had tried other 'specialists' and even saw another physical therapist who had me do hip / leg stretches -- what a joke! I was about to give up and just 'live with it' until thankfully I kept searching online and found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by R.D., age 38

Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

Read more: Testimonial by P.M.

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by J.B.

My husband and I were having problems with painful intercourse. My therapist recommended that I go and get a pelvic floor evaluation from a physical therapist. Having never been treated by a physical therapist, I wondered how this really was going to help me. My husband who is a physician was very supportive and agreed that a PT evaluation would be a great idea. So i made the appointment and was blown away by what I learned. I had no idea that pelvic floor muscles could get tight and have trigger points just like any other muscle in the body. I'm a massage therapist and very familiar with tight muscles, and this new thought really amazed me. Heather's program to help relax and strengthen these muscles made such a difference. I can say that I am 100% pain free during intercourse now. Yippee! Going to the PT appointments and doing the at-home exercises was definitely a discipline, but it's 100% worth it! The rewards are amazing.

-- J.B.

Testimonial by Alexandra B.

Heather is without exaggerating AMAZING! After years of trouble with a certain part of my body, in no time, she made everything change back to equilibrium and to what would be considered normal. She explains everything in detail and therefore gives you a better understanding of why things are the way they are, and how you can work towards turning things around. I would highly recommend Heather for any type of Physical Therapy. She has created her own "Method/Therapy" through years of studying (with some of the greatest practitioners), practice and breaking down the issues of her past patients, enabling her to fine tune her own system. I'm so thankful to have found her, and I'm especially grateful for the quick recovery I've achieved, after years of distress. If you cannot afford her, I recommend you purchase her book. Although it may not be Heather in person, it can still help you to get on the right path to recovery!

-- Alexandra B., 5/20/2015 via Yelp!

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