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Physical Therapy for Incontinence

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Incontinence

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Enlisting physical therapy to treat incontinence

Before even beginning to think about physical therapy, a patient should see a doctor, because incontinence can stem from a urinary tract or other infection, certain medications, or neurological problems linked to diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

Whatever the cause, the condition is common

  • Approximately one person in ten over the age of 65 has experienced urinary incontinence.
  • Women are more likely than men to have it.
  • In most cases, urinary incontinence is treatable, and a physical therapist can go far in helping a patient regain bladder control.
  • If the doctor recommends therapy, a physical therapist will put together a plan that includes a specific exercise routine for the pelvic floor muscles, a schedule for going to the bathroom, and recommendations for changes in diet.

How does a physical therapist figure out how to treat incontinence?

  • Typically, the physical therapist will ask a patient to keep a log, or what's called a "bladder diary." For about a week, the patient should write down how often she went to the toilet, whether she had an accident, and what triggered it. For example, one frustrating and common form of incontinence among women is stress incontinence, in which a sneeze, a cough, or laughing can cause urine leakage.
  • Also common in women is urge incontinence. "Patients get a sudden, severe urge to get to the toilet, and the bladder begins contracting and losing urine on the way," explains Kendra Harrington, a physical therapist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Older women can have a combination of stress and urge incontinence.