There are different types of bladder incontinence:
Stress Urinary Incontinence
Leakage with physical stress (cough, sneeze, exercise)
Leakage associated with a strong urge to pass urine
Leakage while sleeping
Post Micturition Incontinence
Leakage following bladder emptying
The pelvic organs of bladder, womb and rectum are supported by a complex structure involving the pelvic floor muscles, ligaments and connective tissue.
Trauma, for example at childbirth, a weakened pelvic floor, excessive heavy lifting and a chronic cough can all risk prolapse.
Vaginal prolapse is where the bladder, womb and/or rectum can become less supported and push down into the vaginal walls.
Common symptoms are a heaviness or dragging sensation or a bulging down below. It tends to feel worse by the end of the day and after a longer period of time on your feet.
Improving the pelvic support system can help in relieving the symptoms and in many cases, physiotherapy is effective in avoiding the invasive surgical management procedures.
Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction can show itself in many ways, most commonly in symptoms of incontinence, vaginal prolapse and pelvic pain. The NHS estimates that between 3 and 6 million people in the UK have some degree of urinary incontinence.
The pelvic floor muscles can become weak through lack of use or through the trauma of childbirth. If the muscles are thin and weak, they may be unable to resist the pressure of coughing, sneezing and high impact exercise, therefore allowing leakage at these points of physical stress (stress urinary incontinence).
These same muscles can become dysfunctional through spasm and overactivity. In some cases, chronic constipation or a poor posture can lead to tight muscles that just can't let go. In these situations, incontinence can occur, as well as pain.
Physiotherapy is a conservative and minimally invasive treatment option for these conditions with no known negative side effects. The aim of physiotherapy is to restore normal function within the pelvis.
Another symptom often related to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction is pelvic pain. Many women experience this in different forms. Some experience a general pain and sensitivity in the pelvic area day to day. Others experience pain during or after intercourse. And some experience chronic and severe pain which affects their ability to continue with everyday activities.
Assessing the pelvic floor muscles can be very beneficial, because often the muscles are in spasm and unable to relax and let go. In cases of chronic pain, the whole body can become affected, causing changes to posture and movement patterns, leading to a vicious cycle of pain and dysfunction.
If you haven't tried physiotherapy yet, it is definitely time to make an appointment and start the journey to better pelvic health.
Take a look at this short video to learn how to exercise your pelvic floor muscles correctly.
If you have any questions, ask Gillian for help during your appointment.