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Do you have issues with incontinence?

Women’s Health and Incontinence Physiotherapy

Women’s health and incontinence physiotherapy is a specialty of physiotherapy that focuses on incontinence and conditions specific to women in particular. Services range from antenatal/post-natal education and exercise, as well as musculoskeletal treatment for particular conditions such as prolapse. Pelvic floor muscle weakness in particular has been linked to many women’s health conditions.

What is the Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles that support the pelvic organs (the bowel, bladder and uterus). They stretch from the front of your pubic bone to the back of your tailbone.

From Continence Foundation Australia

The pelvic floor has three main functions:

  1. Support the pelvic organs

Pelvic muscle damage or weakness can lead to the pelvic organs being poorly supported. In severe cases, prolapse can occur, where the pelvic organ slips further down than it is meant to be, sometimes even external to the body.

  1. Allowing proper continence of the bowel and bladder

In order to allow proper continence, the pelvic floor muscles must be able to contract and relax appropriately. If these muscles are unable to relax, bowel and bladder incontinence may result. Alternatively, if these muscles are too active, constipation and painful urination can occur.

  1. Working with the other ‘core’ muscles to stabilise the spine

As well as supporting the pelvic organs, the pelvic floor forms the base of the core, while the diaphragm forms the roof and the deep spinal/abdominal muscles form the walls. For our core stability to be most effective, these muscle groups need to work effectively together. Dysfunction with the pelvic floor muscles lead to decreased core stability, which can lead to back pain and injury.

Why are Pelvic Floor exercises important?

Pelvic floor exercises are crucial to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and limiting the conditions associated with weak pelvic floor muscles. Urinary incontinence occurs in over one third of women and up to 13% of men. Pelvic floor muscle training has been shown to eliminate completely or reduce episodes of urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises can also reduce prolapse symptoms and limit the development of associated conditions. Finally, we rely on our core stability every day during activities such as walking, lifting objects – in fact, even while you are sitting down reading this article! Any imbalance in our core muscles can have widespread effects throughout the body, so it is vital to make sure your pelvic floor is working properly.

What are the symptoms of Pelvic Floor dysfunction?

There are many symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Common symptoms include:

  • Leaking small amounts of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running
  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Feeling of incomplete emptying with urinating or with bowel movements
  • Constipation, straining, pain with bowel movements
  • Unexplained backache
  • Pain for women during intercourse
  • Reduced sensation in the vagina

How does Pelvic Floor dysfunction affect men?

Men experience similar symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, such as stress incontinence, constipation, backache and incomplete bladder emptying. Men are commonly affected by pelvic floor dysfunction after prostate surgery and abdominal surgery. Following prostate surgery in particular, men can experience bladder issues for 6-12 months afterwards. It is particularly important for men undergoing prostate surgery to commence pelvic floor muscle training exercises. Pelvic floor muscle training can speed up the recovery process and reduce symptoms of incontinence.

From Continence Foundation Australia

How can I strengthen my Pelvic Floor muscles?

There are many different exercises available for men and women to strengthen their pelvic floor, depending on what the underlying issue is – be it core weakness, incontinence or even prolapse. For further information, book in to see our Continence and Women’s Health Physiotherapist today for a full assessment and tailored exercise program.

Men’s & Women’s Health and Continence Physiotherapy assessments are available at our Footscray, Camberwell and Heidelberg clinics.

Where can I find further information?

Further information can be found from the following websites:

The Continence Foundation of Australia

Pelvic Floor – Better Health Channel

Pelvic Floor – Information for Men

Pelvic Floor First

This post was compiled by our Physiotherapist Simone