Bladder leakage (urinary incontinence) is not normal. Despite the marketing campaigns from sanitary pad companies, women and men can resolve their urinary leakage in most cases. They do not have to resort to using a pad for the rest of their lives. Research strongly recommends pelvic floor physiotherapy as a first-line treatment approach.
There are different conditions as to why someone might leak. These include:
1. Stress Urinary Incontinence: Leaking urine when there is ‘stress’, or pressure placed on your pelvic floor. Common activities that generate this stress are coughing, laughing, sneezing and exercises such as running or jumping. A common cause for this is reduced pelvic floor muscle strength.
2. Urinary Urgency: Having a sudden urge to rush to the toilet, and potentially being unable to delay the need for going to the toilet is called urgency. Often people have ‘triggers’ that set off this urge, such as opening the front door, hearing water running or going outside into cold weather. Urgency does not involve leaking.
3. Urge Urinary Incontinence: Leaking related to having the sudden urge to rush to the toilet. This can range from a few drops to complete bladder loss. For both Urgency and Urge Urinary Incontinence distraction techniques, pelvic floor muscle strategies and gradually challenging the urgency with the help from a pelvic floor physiotherapist can be successful.
4. Frequency: The need to go to the toilet often. Most people need to go to the toilet between approximately 4 and 6 times per day to empty their bladder. This equates to every 2.5 to 4.5 hours. Frequency is an issue when someone is going more than 10 times per day or more often than every 2 hours.
5. Overactive Bladder: This term is used when someone has a combination of the above conditions. One condition can link in closely with another so this is not unusual.
Pelvic floor physiotherapists can assess your pelvic floor muscles and design an individual program tailored to your individual goals, specific condition(s), and causes behind your bladder leakage. Strategies can include advice to help resolve leaking or normalise how often you are toileting. Treatment approaches can include improving muscle strength, behavioural strategies to reduce the strength of the urge or frequency of toileting or minimising dietary influences.
Written by Hayley Runting
Senior Physiotherapist with Women’s & Men’s Health focus