We’ve all seen quirky little signs and cartoons that feature sayings like these about the subject of urinary stress incontinence:
“Sometimes I laugh so hard that tears fall down my leg.”
“How do I know that I have hit middle age? In preparation for a big sneeze…I cross my legs really hard and hope for the best.”
The truth is, if you suffer from urinary stress incontinence—as millions of Americans do—its effect on your life is usually no laughing matter.
Myth 1: Incontinence is Just Something You Have to Live With
The most common symptom of urinary stress incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine during exercise and other everyday activities such as sneezing and laughing—or anything that puts pressure on the bladder. This is uncomfortable and embarrassing for sufferers, yet it is a topic that is not discussed openly. Worse yet, it is erroneously considered just a normal result of aging and, for women, childbearing. This is a persistent myth that prevents many people from getting the help they need to cure their incontinence issues.
First some facts: Urinary stress incontinence affects 68 percent of women between the ages of 42 and 64 on a monthly basis, according to research by gynecologist Dr. Elaine Waetjen at University of California Davis Medical Center. However, it’s not only women who cope with this condition. Men, particularly those who have, or have had, prostate cancer and who have undergone treatment for it often suffer from urinary stress incontinence. The American Cancer Society reports that the rate of prostate cancer in men is 1 in 7, indicating that urinary stress incontinence is likely an equally significant problem for men as it is for women. It’s no wonder there are so many commercials and advertisements about how to manage the symptoms of this prevalent problem.
Myth 2: Urinary Stress Incontinence Cannot Be Resolved
It is important for those suffering from urinary stress incontinence to know that the condition can be treated and resolved in many cases. You are not destined to live a life with frequent trips to the restroom, adult diapers or pads, or limiting your fluid intake! The truth is, depending on the cause of your incontinence, there are many treatment options available. Including:
• Dietary changes—Sometimes the bladder is irritated by caffeine, spicy foods, or other substances, so avoiding these triggers can be helpful.
• Physical therapy—Research has shown that training pelvic floor muscles and the bladder can be more successful in resolving urinary stress incontinence in women, than drug therapy, pharmaceutical and surgical interventions.
• Surgical and pharmaceutical interventions—These may also be options, often when less invasive treatments fail to resolve incontinence issues.
How Physical Therapy Can Help Resolve Urinary Stress Incontinence
As a physical therapist, when I evaluate and treat a patient for urinary stress incontinence, I consider all factors which may be involved. For example:
• When and how the urinary incontinence happens.
• The types of interventions which have been tried before.
• Any medications or foods which may impact the issue.
• Common physical causes of urinary stress incontinence such as pelvic floor and core (abdominals and back muscle) weakness
• Postural issues like pelvic misalignment, scoliosis, and leg length discrepancies.
The good news is, many of the factors contributing to urinary stress incontinence can be corrected! If you choose to work with a physical therapist to resolve your urinary stress incontinence, they may ask you to keep a food and drink diary along with an incontinence journal. As you progress in your treatment, you may note positive changes such as less leakage, less frequency of leakage, less urgency, as well as greater periods of time between bathroom stops. Eventually, your incontinence issues will be resolved (really!) and you can enjoy activities such as laughing and exercising without leakage as well as sleeping through the night without having to make frequent trips to the bathroom.
Consult Our Adrian, Michigan and Tecumseh, Michigan Physical Therapy Clinics
Consider consulting a trained physical therapist as a first step. At our clinic, we offer free private consultations to those suffering from incontinence to determine if physical therapy can help. One of our therapists will take time to speak with you and will help you decide what the next best step is for you based on the information that you share with them.
The myths that urinary stress incontinence is just something you have to live with and that there are no viable treatments are just that—myths! Don’t let them, or the feeling that you are alone in your suffering hold you back from regaining your freedom.