For women, urinary incontinence is absolutely distressing and can be socially embarrassing.
It can affect your self-esteem and make you feel helpless.
Sometimes, you just feel like withdrawing yourself from social situations. It can also keep you from doing physical and fitness activities regularly which can affect your overall health and wellbeing.
Urinary incontinence can come in different types – stress incontinence, urge incontinence and mixed incontinence.
Stress incontinence is when there is increased abdominal pressure causing you to urinate involuntarily. It may happen when you cough, jump or run.
Urge incontinence is when you tend to have an overactive bladder. It is described as an overwhelming urge to urinate and the involuntary passing of urine because of this. The triggers can be as simple as hearing running water or seeing the toilet.
There are some cases that it can be a combination of both. This is referred to as mixed urinary incontinence
Either way, the bigger problem is that you’re peeing at the wrong place and time when you don’t want to and you want to know how to prevent this, yes?
How to Treat Urinary Incontinence
First off, we need to understand about the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a muscular base of the abdomen attached to the bony pelvis. A woman’s pelvic floor muscles support her bladder, uterus and colon. (Think of a basket or a hammock)
Your pelvic floor muscles help you control your bladder. It can help in maintaining pressure gradient that prevents the unwanted flow. Thus it is important to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong. The ability to engage the pelvic floor (and ensure other body parts aren’t creating unnecessary pressure) during the activities that often cause leakage can save you from embarrassment and stress. If you have strong pelvic muscles and good body awareness, it can buy you time until you get into the nearest restroom.
So how do you strengthen your pelvic muscles and ensure you’re not creating unnecessary pressure?
Through physiotherapy and Reformer Pilates!
Physiotherapy is an important first-line management for urinary incontinence. Compared to surgery, it offers a cheaper treatment solution. A physiotherapist can help retrain your bladder and will usually recommend exercises to optimise pelvic floor health.
Depending on what type of incontinence you’re suffering from, there are several various exercises and ways physiotherapy can help.
A physiotherapist will conduct an assessment to be able to diagnose the type of incontinence you have. The goal of physiotherapy is to help you regain control of your bladder and your pelvic floor muscles. You will learn how to tighten or relax those muscles so that they function properly and keep you dry.
On the other hand, Reformer Pilates is also a good exercise if you have urinary incontinence, as it involves a lot of stretching, relaxing and strengthening of your core muscles which can help optimise your pelvic area.
Reformer Pilates is a form of exercise, involving a range of movements that both strengthen and increase the flexibility of the whole body rather than having a specific muscle focus.
Reformer Pilates can be modifiable. It can also be customised for women with urinary incontinence. In this case, modified Pilates avoids intense abdominal contractions, breath holding or straining that could increase pressure on the pelvic floor during exercises that can incidentally train it.
This mind-body approach that involves slow, controlled movements focusing on posture and breathing appears to increase the beneficial effects of physiotherapy for people with urinary incontinence.
A recent paper by Adi Lausen et al shows that a combination of modified Pilates and physiotherapy can benefit women with urinary incontinence. The participants in the study were women diagnosed with stress, urge or mixed urinary incontinence.
It was revealed that women who attended modified Pilates classes and who had lower symptom severity improved their self-esteem, decreased their social embarrassment and had less impact on their normal daily activities.
Meanwhile, women with higher symptom severity showed improvement in their personal relationships. Additionally, the qualitative analysis supported these findings and also pointed out that modified Pilates classes could positively affect outlook towards exercise, diet and wellbeing.
Suffering from urinary incontinence can affect you in a lot of ways physically, mentally and socially. It’s important to take care of your pelvic health. If you are one of the many women affected by urinary incontinence, consider taking a visit to your physiotherapist or attend a Reformer Pilates class. Better yet, you can do both to get the best results.
It’s all right. We’re here to help you. Talk to us at Happy Physio anytime on 9272 7359.
Lausen A, Marsland L, Head S, Jackson J, Lausen B. Modified Pilates as an adjunct to standard physiotherapy care for urinary incontinence: a mixed methods pilot for a randomised controlled trial. BMC Women’s Health. 2018;18:16. doi:10.1186/s12905-017-0503-y.