woman with stress incontence

While it can seem like no big deal, leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, jumping or other activity is not normal. This kind of leaking is also known as stress incontinence. The good news is that you don’t have to live with this condition. 

Your pelvic floor is like a “hammock” of muscles that supports your pelvic organs (the bladder and bowel in men; the bladder, bowel and uterus in women). When your pelvic floor muscles become weak or aren’t working properly, you may feel pain, discomfort and sometimes incontinence.

There are many factors that can cause pelvic floor muscles to weaken, including:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy and vaginal childbirth
  • Prostate cancer treatment
  • Too much caffeine or alcohol

You can make your pelvic floor muscles stronger in the same way you strengthen the muscles in your arms or legs — through training and exercise. Strengthening actually retrains the pelvic floor muscles to act as a clamp, closing off the urethra and preventing leakage.

Exercises called Kegels are especially helpful. Kegels can be done discreetly by sitting comfortably and squeezing your pelvic muscles 10 to 15 times in row, all while breathing normally and keeping your stomach and thigh muscles relaxed. 

Strengthening is one way to combat stress incontinence, pain and even organ prolapse. Prolapse occurs when the pelvic organs drop down, pressing into the vaginal area.

When exercise and muscle strength training aren’t enough, options such as manual or biofeedback therapy, ultrasound and/or electric stimulation and surgical solutions may help. Just remember, leakage is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. Tell your doctor and ask if you could benefit from pelvic floor therapy. 

UM Upper Chesapeake Health offers a variety of rehabilitation programs, including pelvic floor. With two dedicated pelvic floor therapists, we can help put you on the track to better living.