It may surprise you that approximately one in four Australians, over the age of 15, suffer from bladder leakage, also known as urinary incontinence – that equates to nearly 5 million of us!
This most commonly occurs with coughing, sneezing or other exertion, which is referred to as stress urinary incontinence. What you may not be aware of is that there is now a wealth of evidence that this common and possibly embarrassing condition can be effectively treated with pelvic floor muscle training, taught by a qualified Women’s Health and Continence Physiotherapist.
There are some misconceptions about urinary incontinence. It is usually seen as a ‘women’s issue’, and while it is more common in females, with a third of women suffering from incontinence, men still make up a large proportion of those affected. Also, many people may assume that this is only an issue for the elderly, however, according to the Continence Foundation of Australia, half of women who report incontinence are aged under 50 years.
Many women assume that if they haven’t gone through childbirth, or have had a caesarean delivery, that they would not be at risk of urinary incontinence, however unfortunately there are many other risk factors such as constipation, high impact exercise, heavy lifting in your job or at the gym, and chronic coughing and sneezing, that can also increase the chance of it developing. Stress urinary incontinence was reported in one study to affect over a third of young, fit women who had never had children.
Fortunately, as reported by the Continence Foundation of Australia, the majority of people who experience incontinence can be better treated, managed or cured. A large study done at the University of South Australia has shown that physiotherapy proved effective for 84% of women who received pelvic floor muscle training and lifestyle advice with a qualified Women’s Health and Continence Physiotherapist. The 'cure' rate was still approximately 80% after 1 year, which is comparable to, or even better than, the 'cure' rate reported with surgery.
Researchers report that Physiotherapy management of incontinence is less invasive and has fewer side effects than surgical management, and is also considerably cheaper. The treatment in the study mentioned above was done over an average of five sessions.
Women’s Health and Continence Physiotherapists have extra qualifications in treating issues related to incontinence and other pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Unlike seeing a specialist doctor, seeking help from a specially qualified Physiotherapist does not require a referral. To ensure that you are booked in with an appropriate practitioner, make sure that the receptionist is aware that your appointment is for incontinence, or pelvic floor muscle training.
A Women’s Health and Continence Physiotherapist can assess you and implement an individualised exercise program and teach you about modifying your daily activities and bladder and bowel habits to complement this.
Even if you already have a referral to see a specialist doctor about these issues, getting on the right track with a Physiotherapy program while you await your specialist appointment will be invaluable to your long-term outcome. If you do require surgery, it is best practice to optimise your pelvic floor muscle function beforehand.
Urinary incontinence is not just a normal part of aging, it can be helped!