It always feels great to celebrate wins. That’s what we did when my friend Karen “graduated” from Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy. Before treatment, she had to scope out restrooms wherever she went. She constantly worried about bladder leaks and wore the heaviest LBL pads. Dealing with extreme Urge Incontinence – which creates a sudden, intense urge to go – put serious limits on her life.
With gentle prodding from her friends, Karen made an appointment at a nearby urology center and committed to a six-week treatment plan. The results have been liberating. She went from going to the restroom twice during every trip to the grocery store to not having to go at all when out. While celebrating over breakfast, I asked if I could share her experience with you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Karen asked her friends for recommendations and found a urology center where she felt comfortable. “My Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist was very patient and experienced with helping people like me,” Karen said. “As far as I’m concerned, if a medical professional isn’t supportive, you need to find someone else.”
After figuring out what her insurance would cover, she scheduled a consistent weekly time slot and got started.
NO PAIN, BIG GAIN
When asked if it was hard to get the gumption to start therapy, Karen said, “No. I never worry about therapy that isn’t painful.” It helps to know that Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy doesn’t involve any kind of needles or surgery. It’s as natural as flexing a muscle.
The weekly sessions were methodical. Since every woman’s body is different, Karen’s treatment started with a fundamental assessment of her body. A biofeedback machine measured the growing strength of her pelvic floor muscles during each visit.
“They added more complexity to my exercises every week and asked what kind of progress I was seeing,” Karen said. “When I got to the point where I felt I’d improved enough, that’s when I graduated.”
During each session, Karen learned ways to control her constant need to urinate by being selective about the food she eats and the liquids she consumes. She also learned to neutralize the acids in food and drinks by taking a mineral supplement called Prelief. She also got the importance of doing Kegel exercises regularly to keep her pelvic floor strong enough to combat the urge to go.
NEW WAYS TO PERFORM KEGEL EXERCISE FOR WOMEN
When I asked Karen if she learned anything new about pelvic floor exercises, she said, “I think Kegels for women have evolved. The new approach I learned was to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and at intervals I had to flick or pulse the muscles on top of the contraction. It was like a double exercise. At a certain point, the therapist had me add other muscles. Each week it got a little more complex. The biofeedback machine helped me learn to isolate and contract different sets of muscles.”
THE VALUE OF BIOFEEDBACK
Biofeedback helps ensure you do your pelvic floor exercises correctly so that you gain voluntary control of the muscles. Small sensor tabs are placed along your thighs (similar to the EKG tabs put on your chest during a physical.) There’s no pain. It’s not invasive. It just measures the movement of your body.
“When my therapist asked me to do pelvic floor contractions and on top of that, to flick the muscles, the biofeedback measured how effectively I was doing it,” Karen said.
Could you learn to do Kegel’s correctly without a biofeedback machine? Probably. But, Karen believes there’s no better way to learn. “You can literally watch the contractions,” she said. “You can see the muscle movement charted on a screen in real time. It gives you immediate feedback about your body so you know when you’re doing it right.”
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The combination of exercise, education, and learning how to manage food and drink choices added up to a successful outcome for Karen.
Whether you have Urge Incontinence or you leak after a cough, laugh, or sneeze, pelvic floor physical therapy can help you reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, leaks.
What about you? What’s one tip you’d like to share for managing light bladder leakage?