What is pelvic floor weakness?
Pelvic floor weakness can result in urinary incontinence or organ prolapse. Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. This can range from a small drop of urine (barely enough to wet underwear) to a large amount of urine that soaks through clothing. Pelvic floor weakness may result in:
Stress incontinence: The loss of urine due to an outside stress on the bladder, usually involving the abdominal muscles. A cough, sneeze, laugh or the force from exercise may cause unwanted bladder emptying.
Urge incontinence: The loss of urine in the presence of a strong urge to urinate. The urge may occur when you walk into the cold, hear water running, walk into the bathroom or unzip your pants to use the toilet. Urinary tract infection and certain medications can also cause urge incontinence.
Mixed incontinence: Symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence are present.
Organ prolapse: Movement of an abdominal or pelvic organ out of its’ anatomic position. Movement usually occurs in a downward direction. An example would be a bladder prolapse (cystocele) that allows the bladder to fall into the vaginal cavity.
One of the most common causes of urinary incontinence and/or prolapse is weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. This weakness may be the result of surgery, pregnancy/birth or aging. The bladder is an involuntary muscle and it relies on the pelvic floor muscles and stretch receptors to tell it when to empty. Whenever pressure within or outside the bladder is greater that the muscle strength of the pelvic floor, urine loss will occur.
For most forms of incontinence and prolapse, strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles will help to reduce or eliminate urine loss.
How can a physical therapist help? A physical therapist is a licensed health professional whose education and knowledge focuses on anatomy, physiology and muscle function. Since incontinence and prolapse always involve a muscle problem, a physical therapist is uniquely suited to deal with the problem. Treatment may include specific pelvic muscle strengthening exercises, bladder retraining, biofeedback, body mechanics education or electrical stimulation.
Call your local NovaCare Rehabilitation center to learn more about pelvic floor weakness and how physical therapy can help.
You can contact Samantha Hvasta, DPT, manager at NovaCare Rehabilitation located at the Blueberry Crossing Plaza at (609) 561-5308 or visit novacare.com.