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You Don’t Have to Live with a Leaky Bladder

Aug 31, 2016

It might happen when you sneeze—or maybe when you exercise. It might happen so fast you aren’t able to make it to the bathroom. Living with a leaky bladder—or urinary incontinence—can be frustrating at the very least. The American College of Physicians (ACP) recently looked at some of the best ways—other than surgery—to help women with this condition.

Suzanne Rodgers
Suzanne Rodgers, Women’s Health Physical Therapist (PT) at East Cooper Medical Center

Top treatments

Many women struggle with urinary incontinence. The most common type is stress incontinence. It’s when a little urine leaks out because a certain movement—such as coughing—pushes on your bladder. Other women may have urge incontinence, or an overactive bladder. This kind causes a sudden urge to urinate when you don’t expect it.

To help women with these problems, the ACP recently pored over the latest research on treating urinary incontinence. They focused on choices that didn’t involve surgery. From their review, they were able to pinpoint some of the most effective therapies. One of the best for stress incontinence was pelvic floor muscle training, or Kegel exercises. These can build up the muscles that help you control urination.

Suzanne Rodgers is a Women’s Health Physical Therapist (PT) at East Cooper Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. She explains, “Physical therapy can work to correct bad habits many women have that contribute to their symptoms. What I mean by this is that we tend to hold our breath while doing many activities of daily living, like when we lean over to get something off the floor, or when lifting a heavy object. A lifetime of improper lifting takes a toll on our bodies. When we hold our breath, we are trying to stabilize our lumbar spine, but this is ineffective and weakens the soft tissues of our pelvic floor, which can lead to dysfunction. One of my goals as a Women's Health PT is to teach people how to use their core muscles, including the abdominals and the pelvic floor muscles, to stabilize the lumbar spine.”

Suzanne adds, “A high percentage of women perform Kegel exercises incorrectly (use the wrong muscles for example) when just verbally instructed how to perform them. Doing the exercises incorrectly can exacerbate the problem. PT can help by ensuring a woman is using the appropriate musculature and performing the exercises effectively for a successful outcome.”

For women with an overactive bladder, bladder training may be the answer. It can help you gradually hold more urine over time. It includes going to the bathroom on a set schedule. Certain medicines may work, too. But they may cause unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth and constipation.

Other options

Urinary incontinence often stems from pregnancy or childbirth. Having a baby can weaken a woman’s pelvic muscles. Certain health problems can also cause it, such as a stroke or a brain injury. Some medicine may even be the culprit.

To help decide on treatment, your doctor may first address what is causing your leaky bladder. For instance, he or she may change your medicine if that seems to be the problem. Simple lifestyle changes may also make a difference. You may need to cut out caffeine and alcohol. They can irritate your bladder.

If you have stress incontinence and these steps don’t work, your doctor may finally recommend surgery. The sling procedure is one of the most common surgical choices. A small piece of tissue or mesh is added to the urethra. That’s the tube that moves urine out of your body. This sling helps the urethra close as it should.

For more information about our Outpatient Rehab Center or to discuss this topic further, visit:

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