Physical Therapy To Treat Urinary Incontinence

23 February 2016
 Categories: , Blog

Urinary incontinence doesn't just affect women and the elderly. It's a common medical issue anyone can have with an estimated 25 million Americans dealing with chronic or temporary urinary incontinence. If you suffer from urinary incontinence, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist (PT) trained in treating the condition. After evaluating your symptoms, a physical therapist will decide which treatment modalities best meet your needs for controlling urinary leakage and improving your quality of life.

Retraining Your Bladder

Bladder retraining is a form of treatment that combines scheduled visits to the toilet with behavior therapy. The behavior modification aspect of treatment may involve resisting the urge to urinate at times other than those on the schedule the PT has set up for you. You will be making timed trips to the toilet rather than waiting until you feel the need to go.

For instance, if you have a problem with your bladder leaking within an hour of making your last toilet visit, the PT may ask you to make a trip to the bathroom every 45 minutes. Once you don't experience leakage for several consecutive days, the therapist will lengthen the time in between toilet visits.

But if you suffer from urge incontinence (a strong urge to void) and feel the need to go to the bathroom before the next scheduled time, your PT can instruct you on ways to relax and divert your attention from the feeling that you have to go to the bathroom. Pelvic floor exercises and deep breathing may help. Counting backward from 100 by sevens takes concentration, which can help focus your attention away from the constant urge to urinate.

Making Dietary Changes

As part of your treatment plan, your physical therapist may recommend dietary changes, such as reducing the amount of caffeine you consume. Caffeine is a bladder irritant that can cause the bladder muscle to contract, causing urinary urgency or incontinence. Spicy foods, acidic fruits, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, cheese, alcoholic beverages, and carbonated drinks are other foods and beverages that can irritate the bladder and lead to a leaky bladder or bladder pain.

Although you may not have a problem with all these foods, it's important to keep a daily diary of symptoms to identify those that do irritate your bladder. Fruits, such as apples, watermelon, papayas, mangoes, and apricots, which are low in acid, herbal coffee or low-acid decaffeinated coffee, and herbal teas are other alternatives you can try.

Receiving Biofeedback

If the muscles that support your bladder are weak, biofeedback can help you learn how to do pelvic floor muscle exercises (also known as Kegel exercises) to strengthen them. With the use of a probe or electrodes and a monitor screen, you can watch your pelvic muscles contract. This helps you learn which muscles you need to contract, which may be particularly helpful if you suffer stress incontinence – a leakage of urine when you cough, sneeze, or perform physical exercise.

Another way to learn how to do Kegel exercises is to stop or slow the flow of urine when you make a trip to the toilet. Pay attention to what muscles you are using, as these are the same muscles you need to contract to exercise your pelvic floor muscles. Hold the contraction for a few seconds and then relax. Do a set of 10 repetitions at least three times a day. Avoid tightening your abdomen and buttocks when you do a Kegel, as this won't help make your pelvic floor muscles stronger. Visit a medical center, such as DeSoto Memorial Hospital, for more information.