Stress incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine with physical movement. The pelvic floor and sphincter control the bladder. Due to various factors, the muscles in the pelvic floor weaken, causing the bladder to drop. When this happens, the bladder becomes more challenging to control, which causes leakage. Activities such as coughing, sneezing, jumping, and exercising can trigger this condition. These leakages can be anything from drips, splashes, or streams, depending on the severity. In extreme cases, a woman may have to wear absorbent liners or underwear constantly. In contrast, men may use a drip collector, external catheter, drainage bags, or other apparatus.
The reasons are mainly physical
Weak pelvic floor muscles or a weak sphincter muscle at the neck of the bladder are the leading causes of stress incontinence. Anyone at any age can experience stress incontinence, particularly those with sedentary lifestyles. Inversely, high-performance athletes can apply pressure to the pelvic floor, increasing the chances of urinary leakage. Women are more at risk for incontinence during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, or after childbirth. At the same time, men with enlarged prostates are easily affected. Other causes include connective tissue disorders, nerve damage, chronic coughing, smoking, and obesity. A doctor can help with determining the root cause and providing treatment.
Treatment options for stress incontinence
There are many treatment options, each depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. Age and health are also important factors when treating stress incontinence. Treatment options include medication, electrical stimulation, surgery, behavioral intervention, and physical therapy. The most popular treatment is physical therapy (PT), which entails pelvic floor exercises. Since obesity is another underlying cause, weight loss and changes in diet and lifestyle can help. Surgery is the last resort if other treatment options are unsuccessful.
Pelvic physical therapy
Physical therapy primarily involves exercises called Kegels exercises which can be performed using weighted vaginal cones, pelvic floor biofeedback, or even electrical stimulation. The biggest advantage is that Kegels can be done anywhere, at any time. Success depends on the dedication of the patient, the severity, and the cause of incontinence. Physical therapists also look to improve core strength, which can support the pelvic muscles.
Consider physical therapy
Physical therapy works well for most people in generally good health. Patients with stress incontinence who want improvement without medication or surgical intervention are great candidates. Women after childbirth, men after prostate surgery, and those on a weight-loss regimen are also ideal. After 8-12 weeks of consistent effort, there should be a significant improvement. From there, the patient will still need regular exercise to maintain the pelvic muscles.
Help is possible for your stress incontinence
Stress incontinence can cause urine leakage during activities such as sneezing, coughing, and exercise. Physical therapy is the easiest and least invasive method to treat the condition. With regular pelvic and core exercises, there will be a significant improvement. The success of this method depends on the underlying cause, the commitment of the individual, and other lifestyle changes such as weight loss. If there is an underlying disease or condition, getting the proper treatment before physical therapy is best. Speak to your doctor before attempting any treatment.