For women with incontinence issues, even the most common everyday tasks
can generate fear and anxiety. Imagine driving to work, interacting with
co-workers, or going to the grocery story with the fear of “an accident”
looming over you. Suddenly the first thought in your mind isn’t
your to-do list, but the closest route to the bathroom. The condition
can quickly erode quality of life and chip away at self confidence.
An estimated 25 to 45 percent of women suffer from incontinence, which
results in sudden urges to go to the bathroom or frequent leaking without
warning. Yet in spite of its prevalence, many women keep quiet about the
issue due to embarrassment and put their lives on hold, refraining from
going out in public, catching up on errands, attending social events,
or being intimate in relationships because of the fear and shame.
There is good news for those suffering in silence, though: the issue can
often be resolved with just a few trips to a qualified physical therapist.
Most cases of incontinence are caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles,
which can result from multiple births, difficult labor, or weight gain.
Physical therapy has proven to help women recover strength in those muscles
to help combat leaking.
“Many women believe that urinary incontinence is just a normal part
of aging, but that’s definitely not the case,” said Erica
Brown, MPT, a physical therapist specializing in urinary incontinence
management at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC). “We
have many resources available to help women overcome this condition.”
Brown teaches her patients how to do Kegels and other muscle movements
that target the lower pelvic region, and she guides them through bladder
retraining, biofeedback and electrical stimulation to achieve results.
A number of studies have touted the effectiveness of muscle conditioning
for improving incontinence, including research published in the journal
Physical Therapy that concluded women who practiced pelvic-floor exercises had 68 percent
fewer episodes of incontinence per week.
Perhaps best of all, patients who learn the exercises over the course of
several PT appointments can do them discreetly at home or at work for
long term outcomes.
The sooner incontinence is detected, the easier it will be to combat, Brown
said, and women who have recently given birth or are noticing any re-occurrences
with incontinence problems should start by scheduling an appointment with
their primary care physician to get a referral.
“Even if therapy doesn’t completely solve incontinence, it
will absolutely improve your quality of life,” Brown said.
For more information on PVHMC’s Rehabilitation Services department
and a list of physicians, please visit
www.pvhmc.org/#Incontinence or contact (909) 865-9782.