EDITORIAL: Women’s health — urinary incontinence

On the Move

Do you experience urinary incontinence? You are not alone. Urinary incontinence is a common problem in our society.

Unfortunately, nobody wants to talk about it, but it has serious emotional, physical and social consequences. Incontinence can occur for various medical reasons, but the most common in women is stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Risk factors for urinary incontinence include age, obesity, pregnancy and childbirth.

Pelvic floor muscle training is effective for treating adult women with urinary incontinence without risk of side effects, according to a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). A systematic review was conducted by AHRQ that included 905 publications presenting the results of clinical studies published from January 1990 through December 2011. Researchers studied two types of incontinence — stress incontinence and urgency incontinence. Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles were found to be effective in increasing women’s ability to hold their urine. Pelvic floor muscle training combined with bladder training improved mixed (stress and urgency) incontinence. Estrogen treatment was found to be effective in treating stress incontinence, but with side effects. Another drug treatment, the antidepressant duloxetine, was not found to be effective, while carrying a high risk of side effects. Overall, the report found that the drugs reviewed showed similar effectiveness. However, with some drugs, more women discontinued treatment due to side effects.

There are no side effects with muscle strengthening. Although most women have heard of kegals, many do not perform them correctly or they do not perform them at all. The pelvic floor muscles are made up of three layers of muscles. They have three important functions; support, sphincter control and sexual function.

The urinary and bowel sphincters are embedded in the second layer of musculature. The pelvic floor muscles are voluntary muscles and can become weak. A weak pelvic floor cannot maintain good sphincter closure and results in urine leakage. Think of a biceps muscle. The pelvic floor is the same type of muscle. What would happen if you couldn’t pick up a cup of coffee because of weak biceps muscles? What would you do? You would strengthen the biceps muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are no different, however strengthening the pelvic floor requires specific muscle training with focus and consistency. With correct training and consistency, many women can reverse urinary incontinence.

Urinary incontinence is something we should be talking about. Improving and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can reverse urinary incontinence. To learn about the pelvic floor program give us a call.

“On the Move” is a periodic column giving healthy lifestyle tips and information on activities happening in the Skaneateles-area. Kraetz Physical Therapy is located at 796 Genesee St., Skaneateles. For more tips follow them at facebook.com/kraetzphysicaltherapy.

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