What is urinary incontinence? Maybe you’ve stumbled across this word before.
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, and a health condition I have seen many people face each year. Sadly, there’s a certain stigma around incontinence. This means that many people who have it are embarrassed to seek out help for it, or may not have the chance to get their questions answered. But the truth is, incontinence is faced by 3.5 million Canadians1, or about 10% of the entire population. In women aged 45 or over, this number is even higher2 at over half (>50%) of all women surveyed. If you have experienced incontinence with pregnancy or postnatally, you have an 80% chance of having incontinence postmenopausally.
“Even though incontinence is not life-threatening or overly disabling per se, it has a major impact upon the quality-of-life for those affected—physical, social, mental, and emotional. The care of incontinence in the community is often funded out-of-pocket which can be a burden on seniors, in particular, on low, fixed incomes. With elders, family caregiving is often strained resulting in institutionalization and the accompanying loss of independence, not to mention the direct costs or urinary pads or adult diapers at roughly $2000 per year per person. The combination of Canada’s aging population and the tendency for urinary incontinence to become more prevalent with age, means that incontinence will likely become an increasing burden on society as well as for the individuals suffering from UI, their families and caregivers. In some jurisdictions, already, the amount of money spent by consumers on adult diapers is greater than the amount spent on baby diapers.”—From Incontinence: A Canadian Perspective
That’s why answering your questions about this condition is vital when it comes to preventing and treating urinary incontinence from impacting your life. Here’s what you need to know.
Common types of urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence (UI) refers to an issue with the muscles which control your bladder, which in turn controls when you urinate. There are three main types of UI, which are:
- Stress incontinence – When combined with already weakened bladder muscles, stress incontinence can cause you to accidentally urinate during a number of semi-strenuous activities, such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, heavy lifting, or intense exercise.
- Urge incontinence – This condition is also known as overactive bladder, or OAB. It refers to a strong sensation of ‘having to go’, oftentimes repeatedly throughout the day. The sensation is often paired with accidental urination.
- Mixed incontinence – Characterized by a mix of symptoms from both stress incontinence and urge incontinence, mixed incontinence is more common in women than in men.
Whether you’re struggling with stress incontinence, urge incontinence, or a mix of both, this can be a serious struggle. While incontinence doesn’t pose life-threatening health risks, it’s nevertheless a difficult problem to face. It can contribute to issues with your social, emotional, and physical well-being. It can even lead to physical issues such as rashes, sores, and in serious cases, urinary tract infections (UTIs), depression and social isolation.
What causes urinary incontinence?
Incontinence can be caused by a number of health issues. Understanding the most likely underlying reason for your urinary incontinence struggle will help you get the treatment you need to overcome it.
For women (who experience UI at a much higher rate than men), the causes of urinary incontinence can include:
- Weakened or tight pelvic floor muscles
- Poor postural alignment of the core and pelvic floor muscles
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Overweightness (can put excess pressure on the bladder)
- Nerve and muscle disorders, such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and more
How to get treatment for urinary incontinence
As you can see, there are many ways to experience urinary incontinence, and many potential things to cause it. If you do begin to notice some urinary leakage, it might be time to seek out some help.
As we mentioned before, there exists a stigma around urinary incontinence. For many, this is an embarrassing problem, making them less likely to talk about it and seek out help. However, incontinence can only be identified and treated when people talk about it! The truth is that UI is treatable, so by having honest conversations with others who are dealing with it, you can not only reduce stigma, but also help your friends and family find treatment and reclaim their lives!
People take many approaches to treating incontinence. For some, it’s as simple as educating yourself on potential bladder irritants such as:
- Coffee or tea, even without caffeine
- Certain acidic fruits—oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes—and fruit juices
- Spicy foods
- Tomato-based products
- Carbonated drinks
- Not drinking enough water
But for many patients, a more focused, hands-on approach is necessary to help them regain control over their bodies.
At ProActive Pilates, I often work with people struggling with incontinence. The two services I offer most often to cases of incontinence are pelvic floor therapy and core rehabilitation.
Pelvic floor therapy is a specialized and custom treatment that targets the muscle groups surrounding your pelvis. Your pelvic floor serves many, many purposes in the body, including:
- Supporting your lower organs (lower intestine, bladder, bowels, etc.)
- Stabilizing the pelvis and lower back
- Controlling body waste processes
- Supporting the structures around the uterus and vagina
- Providing support for growing fetuses during pregnancy
Pelvic floor therapy is a very common way for people to treat their incontinence and the results can be amazing! Through just a few sessions of highly customized, targeted stretching and/or strengthening, you’ll be able to regain control over your body and say goodbye to incontinence for good.
The other service I offer to help patients with incontinence is core rehab, a treatment focusing on strengthening the core of your entire body, which includes your pelvic floor. Through customized routines of training, you’ll regain control over your body, providing you with the strength you need to prevent incontinence-related incidents.
Using pelvic floor therapy and core rehab together can also have phenomenal results in treating urinary incontinence. Because these two parts of the body are so interdependent, it’s important to consider both when creating a treatment plan for UI. At the same time, every single person’s precise situation is different.
That’s why I strongly advise against cookie-cutter online ‘treatments’ that don’t take your individual health needs into consideration. A person on a video can’t help you adjust your posture and compensatory patterns—which is why a personal, individual assessment is so important.
Take your first steps to overcoming incontinence
If you’re experiencing incontinence, I want to encourage you to do away with the shame that might be coming along with it. While you may not be keen to talk about it with friends and family, the more open and honest you can be with your healthcare professionals, the more likely you are to overcome this struggle.
At ProActive Pilates, I’m proud to have helped so many people overcome the symptoms of incontinence, helping them restore that all-important sense of control over their bodies. I have more than 25 years of experience in core rehab, pelvic floor therapy, breath and diaphragm work, and other treatments proven to help with UI. Through customized, tried-and-tested treatment plans, I can help you overcome incontinence—one step at a time.
Do you have more questions about incontinence? Ready to take the first steps to recovery today? I’m here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact me today!
1 “Incontinence: A Canadian Perspective” . Commissioned by The Canadian Continence Foundation. Prepared by the Cameron Institute. 2014. https://www.canadiancontinence.ca/pdfs/en-incontinence-a-canadian-perspective-2014.pdf
2 “Urinary Incontinence and Loneliness in Seniors“. Documentation from Statistics Canada.