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Conquering Incontinence: How Physical Therapy Can Help

Updated: Apr 3, 2023



Incontinence is a common yet often under-discussed issue affecting both men and women of all ages. It can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, often causing embarrassment, inconvenience, and emotional distress. Physical therapy can be an effective solution to help manage and treat various types of incontinence. This article will discuss the different types of incontinence, the role of physical therapy in treating incontinence, and the various techniques used by physical therapists to help individuals regain control of their bladder function.


Types of Incontinence

There are several types of incontinence, with the most common being stress, urge, mixed, and functional incontinence.

  1. Stress Incontinence: This type occurs when physical stress, such as coughing, sneezing, or exercising, puts pressure on the bladder, causing involuntary urine leakage.

  2. Urge Incontinence: Also known as overactive bladder, this type is characterized by a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine.

  3. Mixed Incontinence: This is a combination of both stress and urge incontinence, with symptoms of both types occurring simultaneously.

  4. Functional Incontinence: This type occurs when a person is unable to reach the bathroom in time due to physical or cognitive impairments.

The Role of Physical Therapy in Treating Incontinence

Physical therapy is a non-invasive and conservative treatment option for incontinence that aims to address the underlying causes of the issue. Physical therapists work with patients to develop a personalized treatment plan, focusing on strengthening and retraining the muscles responsible for bladder control, as well as addressing any contributing factors.


Physical Therapy Techniques for Incontinence

  1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises: Often referred to as Kegel exercises, these exercises target the pelvic floor muscles responsible for bladder control. A physical therapist will help patients identify and isolate these muscles and teach them how to perform the exercises correctly.

  2. Biofeedback: Biofeedback helps patients gain awareness and control of their pelvic floor muscles. A physical therapist uses sensors to monitor muscle activity and displays the information on a screen, guiding the patient through exercises to improve muscle control and coordination.

  3. Bladder Retraining: Bladder retraining involves teaching patients how to gradually increase the time between bathroom visits. A physical therapist helps the patient develop a schedule for timed voiding, with the goal of improving bladder capacity and reducing the frequency of involuntary leakage.

  4. Functional Training: Physical therapists work with patients to improve their ability to perform everyday activities that may trigger incontinence, such as lifting, bending, or exercising. This can involve teaching proper body mechanics and strategies to prevent involuntary leakage during these activities.

  5. Posture and Body Mechanics Education: Poor posture and incorrect body mechanics can contribute to incontinence. A physical therapist can evaluate a patient's posture and movement patterns, providing guidance on how to make necessary adjustments to alleviate symptoms and prevent future issues.

  6. Electrical Stimulation: In some cases, a physical therapist may use electrical stimulation to help patients improve pelvic floor muscle control. A small electrical current is delivered to the muscles through electrodes, which can help enhance muscle contractions and retrain the muscles to function more effectively.

  7. Relaxation Techniques: Stress and anxiety can exacerbate incontinence symptoms. Physical therapists can teach patients relaxation techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to help manage stress and reduce muscle tension.

Incontinence can be a challenging and frustrating issue to deal with, but physical therapy offers a non-invasive, conservative treatment option that has proven effective for many individuals. By working closely with a skilled physical therapist, patients can learn how to improve their pelvic floor muscle strength, control, and coordination, ultimately leading to a better quality of life.


In addition to the physical therapy techniques mentioned above, it's essential for patients to maintain open communication with their healthcare providers and physical therapists. Regularly discussing progress and any changes in symptoms can help tailor treatment plans to individual needs and ensure the best possible outcomes.


It's also important to remember that results may vary from person to person, and progress might be gradual. Patience, commitment, and consistency in following the treatment plan are key to achieving long-term success in managing incontinence.


Physical therapy can be a game-changer for individuals experiencing incontinence. By addressing the root causes of the issue and providing personalized treatment plans, physical therapists empower patients to regain control of their bladder function, improve their quality of life, and break free from the constraints of incontinence. Don't let incontinence hold you back – reach out to a qualified physical therapist today and take the first step towards a more confident, comfortable, and active life.

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