How Can Physical Therapy Help with Urinary Incontinence?


It’s a common misconception that urinary incontinence is a condition you “just have to deal with.” In fact, physical therapy can help you regain the strength necessary to control your symptoms. Just make sure you choose a physical therapist (PT) who has experience in treating pelvic floor dysfunctions.

There are several types of urinary incontinence:

  • When dealing with stress incontinence, a person may experience urine leakage upon sneezing, lifting heavy items, or laughing. This is commonly due to injury, childbirth, lack of exercise, or other trauma. Any activity that places stress on the bladder can cause pressure, leading to urine leaks—normally only in small amounts.
  • Urge incontinence is caused by muscle spasms. It can happen at any time, and medium to large amounts of urine may leak. Urge incontinence may only occur once in a while or as often as every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Mixed incontinence is a mix of both urge and stress incontinence.
  • Functional incontinence occurs when a person is unable to make it to the restroom in time to prevent a urine leak.

A PT can guide you through exercises tailored to your specific type of incontinence that’ll enable you to control leakage. For example, short contraction exercises involve quickly tightening, lifting up, then releasing the fast-twitch muscles that actively shut off urine flow. The PT will help you identify and use the correct muscles for this exercise by applying gentle electrical stimulation.

Another type of exercise is a long contraction. Performed while sitting, lying down, or even standing, this exercise involves gradually conditioning the slow-twitch muscles by tightening, lifting, and holding contractions—the goal on this last one is get to a 10-second hold before release. Therapists recommend performing this exercise regularly (ideally several times a day) in order to achieve optimal results.

Beyond the abovementioned exercises, a PT also may suggest dietary changes as certain foods can irritate the bladder.

By working with a therapist, you can gain the confidence and strength to control your symptoms.

Need to find a physical therapist in your area who can help you with urinary incontinence? Use the GetPT search function. Are your urinary incontinence symptoms under control with the help of physical therapy? We’d love to hear your story. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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