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Women’s Health and Physical Therapy - May 11, 2015

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By: Erin Lasher, DPT

There is a common misconception that urinary incontinence is a normal part of female aging.

Making matters worse, women typically turn to the Internet as their first source of self-treatment options. On the web, “kegel” exercises often will be identified as the means to strengthen the pelvic floor relative to urinary incontinence.

But how do you know you’re performing a pelvic floor contraction correctly, or whether a kegel is even the right treatment? Research supports that compensations unknowingly occur when performing a kegel with recruitment from other musculature besides the actual pelvic floor.

Without proper knowledge and guidance from a women’s health physical therapist,1 you could do more harm than good and increase the severity of the condition.

Not only can physical therapy address urinary incontinence but other conditions such as pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual dysfunctions, and fecal incontinence. In these circumstances, a kegel may not be the right approach, which is where physical therapy plays a vital role in the treatment of women’s health conditions.

The questions below are just a quick screen to determine whether women’s health rehabilitation may be appropriate for you or someone you know. For instance, an individual with a painful or shortened pelvic floor may benefit from learning techniques to help relax and lengthen the musculature; in this case, contracting the pelvic floor or performing kegels would be counterproductive because of the possibility of worsening the condition1.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you ever leak urine or stool?
  • Do you ever experience urinary leakage with coughing, laughing or sneezing?
  • Do you ever have to strain to fully empty your bladder?
  • Do you ever wake during the night to go to the bathroom?
  • Do you go to the bathroom more than every two to three hours?
  • Do you have any activity restrictions because of your pelvic pain2?

Remember, these conditions shouldn’t be accepted as the body’s normal response post-partum or with aging. Physical therapy can help identify the best treatment strategy and to improve overall quality of life and function with daily activities.

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