Stress Incontinence

Do you deal with incontinence on a daily basis? Urinary incontinence is the unintentional loss of urine. Stress incontinence happens when physical movement or activity — such as coughing, sneezing, running or heavy lifting — puts pressure (stress) on your bladder. Stress incontinence is not related to psychological stress.

Stress incontinence differs from urge incontinence, which is the unintentional loss of urine caused by the bladder muscle contracting, usually associated with a sense of urgency. Stress incontinence is much more common in women than men.

If you have stress incontinence, you may feel embarrassed, isolate yourself, or limit your work and social life, especially exercise and leisure activities. With treatment, you’ll likely be able to manage stress incontinence and improve your overall well-being.

Symptoms
If you have stress incontinence, you may experience urine leakage when you:

  • Cough
  • Sneeze
  • Laugh
  • Stand up
  • Get out of a car
  • Lift something heavy
  • Exercise
  • Have sexual intercourse

You may not experience incontinence every time you do one of these things, but any pressure-increasing activity can make you more vulnerable to unintentional urine loss, particularly when your bladder is full.

Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles and other tissues that support the bladder (pelvic floor muscles) and the muscles that regulate the release of urine (urinary sphincter) weaken.  The bladder expands as it fills with urine. Normally, valve-like muscles in the urethra — the short tube that carries urine out of your body — stay closed as the bladder expands, preventing urine leakage until you reach a bathroom. But when those muscles weaken, anything that exerts force on the abdominal and pelvic muscles — sneezing, bending over, lifting, laughing hard, for instance — can put pressure on your bladder and cause urine leakage.

Some methods of treating female incontinence through physical therapy include:

  • Pelvic floor exercises, sometimes called Kegel exercises, which tighten and tone the pelvic floor muscles that have become weak over time. Learning to use these muscles during activities that cause your leakage is key to success.
  • Bladder training, with the help of your therapist, will teach you to extend the time between voiding, develop a schedule to use the bathroom, and manage overwhelming urges to urinate.
  • Biofeedback involves becoming attuned to your body’s functions in order to gain control over your muscles and suppress urges.

Kaitlyn Grell, LPTA
Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical Therapy Consultants, Inc.

November 21st, 2018

Posted In: General

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