Registered Physiotherapist, Pelvic Health Solutions
Strengthening pelvic floor muscles, with the guidance of a pelvic health physiotherapist, can be 80 per cent effective. Yet pessaries are another great tool for managing incontinence.
It has been proven that exercise—running especially—has health benefits well beyond any pill a doctor could prescribe. Sadly, women often stop exercising as a result of bladder leakage, also called incontinence.
Women feel embarrassed and suffer in silence, thinking the condition can’t be treated or that it is a “normal” part of aging.
Ladies, let’s break the silence
Incontinence is common, but it is not normal. There are simple, low-cost, real-time, non-surgical solutions that women need to know about.
For starters, many don’t understand the meaning of the word “incontinence,” so let’s demystify the medical jargon.
Stress incontinence is a small spurt of urine that occurs when you cough, laugh, sneeze or do physical activity (such as running).
Urge incontinence (also known as overactive bladder syndrome) is the sudden loss of bladder control just after an overwhelming urge to go pee.
Mixed incontinence is when women suffer from both.
What exactly is the pelvic floor?
American gynaecologist, Dr. Arnold Kegel, brought the world’s attention to the group of muscles called the pelvic floor that are like a hammock or sling, supporting the bladder, uterus, prostate and rectum.
Dr. Kegel noted that a woman’s pelvic floor muscles were weakened by childbirth and prescribed his famous “Kegel exercises” to women as a non-surgical treatment.
But, frustration with doing Kegels, uncertainty of how to do them properly, or not seeing results has left many of us feeling hopeless, so we just keep wearing pads or stop exercising altogether.
Don’t stop mid-pee!
When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, they need to be strengthened through a structured strengthening programme. This doesn’t mean doing a few Kegels at the kitchen sink or traffic light; contrary to what many women are told, you should never do these exercises by stopping your urine mid-stream. An extreme approach that suggests doing 1,000 reps a day has no basis in exercise science either.
How to strengthen your pelvic floor
Start by following the same rules you as when you are weight training at the gym: three sets of 10 repetitions daily for about 12 weeks. You can do them daily because, unlike weight training at the gym, you don’t add weights to increase the effort. So, daily exercise is safe until those annoying leaks stop.
How do I know if I’m doing them right?
The best way to know for sure is to see a professional, like a physiotherapist, who has the appropriate training to confirm you are doing the exercises properly. They’ll do an internal exam to assess the state of the muscles and let you know how well you’re doing your Kegels. Research shows that strengthening pelvic floor muscles with the guidance of a pelvic health physiotherapist has an effectiveness rate of 80 per cent.
Pessaries are another great tool for managing incontinence. Until now, all pessaries had to be fitted and inserted by a medical professional.