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As a pelvic health physical therapist, I work with many patients who have questions about bladder health. One question they seem to have in common is: how should they manage urinary incontinence symptoms? When I initially meet with patients, they are frequently surprised to learn the different types of incontinence and causes. Let’s talk about the different types and treatments for urinary incontinence.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how I answer those questions:
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine and has different presentations and treatment approaches.
One common cause is from pregnancy-related changes, regardless of mode of delivery. Vaginal delivery may result in tearing of the Pelvic floor muscles or vaginal tissue with overstretching of the pelvic nerves, however, postural changes and the weight of the baby that result from being pregnant can also create these changes (yes, even with a cesarean delivery).
Burning during urination or pain in the pelvic region is not a symptom of urge urinary incontinence. Instead, the burning or pain could be due to urinary urgency frequency syndrome, painful bladder syndrome (also known as interstitial cystitis) or a urinary tract infection, which should be ruled out by a physician.
Also, Urinary frequency is not always a symptom of urge incontinence. UUI is diagnosed when there is a loss of urine that occurs with an urge, not necessarily a frequent loss of urine.
The difference between stress incontinence vs urge incontinence is that movements like jumping or running might trigger stress incontinence due to a weak or uncoordinated pelvic floor, while urge incontinence might occur at any time, when the bladder muscles inappropriately contract and cause involuntary leakage.
These different types of incontinence sometimes make my patients feel embarrassed, since the leaks are unexpected. They aren’t alone in those feelings – for the one in three women who experience bladder leaks, a Poise® survey found that three-fifths of those women said they're embarrassed by them (60%).1 That’s a stigma we need to shatter!
As a pelvic health physical therapist, I want to encourage women to talk openly about their leaks with their doctors so that they can find the right treatments and solutions for their optimal health.
When discussing different types of incontinence, my goal with patients is to identify the best treatments, therapy, and/or products that can keep them comfortable, fresh and free despite leaks.
One point I always make with my clients is the importance of protecting their hygiene when managing leaks using products designed to keep their skin moisture-free to prevent irritation. It’s easy to find solutions designed for fast-absorbing protection throughout their day, like Poise® Ultra Thin pads, at local retailers.
Information is empowering and can provide the confidence needed to talk openly about leaks. I always recommend talking to your OB/GYN, urologist, or urogynecologist if you have questions about incontinence.
With a few brief questions, a medical professional can find proper solutions, treatments, and referrals to ensure your comfort and health.
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Author Summary: Dr. Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, Pelvic Health Physical Therapist is the founder of Fusion Wellness & Femina Physical Therapy (FeminaPT.com). Her work focuses on pelvic and sexual health education for all, and she lectures internationally on Female Sexual Dysfunction and chronic pelvic pain. She is also the author of Sex Without Pain: A Self Treatment Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve.
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