Why is it that most people are embarrassed about talking about what’s going on ‘down there’? Most women, about 50% at some point in their life cycle will have experienced urinary incontinence or unwanted ‘leaking’. So it’s actually more common than most people think. You don’t have to feel alone. Incontinence can occur at any stage in life, more commonly to occur as we age.
BUT, is it normal?
No!!!!! Actually the media and even some doctors do a good job of telling us that it’s normal and we can just take pills or use padding in our underwear and the problem is fixed. There’s even a video online of young athletes doing CrossFit who are encouraged that they get this unwanted leaking during exercise because to them, it’s proving that they are pushing themselves harder. Using leaking as a positive thing and that you just need a pad to wear is like putting a band-aid over the problem without trying to fix the root of it.
So what is urinary incontinence?
There are a few different types, but let’s focus on the 3 main ones:
Stress Incontinence is leaking of urine when coughing, sneezing or laughing. If we are increasing intra-abdominal pressure, our muscles in the pelvic floor have to respond to the increased load and contract to not let any urine out. In this type of incontinence, we usually only leak a small amount. This is the type more common in younger athletic women or during and after pregnancy.
Urge incontinence is associated with a strong, uncontrollable need to void, with an inability to delay voiding. It is normal to void 5-8 times per day, and maybe once at night if you are over 50 years old. This type of incontinence is more commonly seen in older adults but still is not a normal part of aging.
Mixed incontinence is associated with an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure and with an intense urge to void. So, it is a blend of stress and mixed incontinence.
What should I do about it?
We know that healthy muscles in our pelvic floor silently do their job allowing us to function without interruption. But most people don’t even know these muscles exist and are not aware we can do things to ensure its good health. About 45% of patients reported symptoms to their family doctor about their problem, and 85% of these discussions were initiated by the patient. Start having a conversation with your family doctor if you know you are someone with this problem and have not addressed it. Talking to a close family member or friend about it may help you feel less embarrassed because there is a good chance they have dealt with a similar situation too.
There are specially trained physiotherapists who can help with these types of incontinence and teach you how the bladder and pelvic floor muscles work together. Having an internal assessment of the pelvic area is the best way to effectively assess and treat this issue. We can help you get more awareness and develop a greater connection to these muscles that help control our bladder through a variety of treatment options. Once you have started that conversation, you will be on your way to making your quality of life even better!
If you are looking for a physiotherapy centre that treats the above condition, please call our centre at 613-424-7852 to book an assessment with a physiotherapist specially trained in pelvic physiotherapy and rostered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario.