If you were to sit down with 4 of your friends, it is likely that one of you would be experiencing incontinence (loss of control of the bowel or bladder) of some kind. That’s the current statistics in Australia – 1 in 5. And while incontinence is not necessarily “normal”, it’s certainly not uncommon!
Incontinence is a broad term, relating to accidental loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence), or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence). For many, this is a deeply private and embarrassing issue, however, there is help for women, men and children.
While there are a number of reasons someone may be experiencing incontinence, Pelvic Floor muscle dysfunction is a common one. The pelvic floor muscles provide support to the bladder, bowel & uterus (in women), they contract to stop and start urine flow and faecal movements, and they work in conjunction with the muscles of the lower back and abdominals to form the “core”. We often think of just the abdominals as the “core”, when in fact, the core includes the pelvic floor, pelvic girdle muscles, glutes and muscles of the trunk.
The symptoms of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction are varied. Below is a quick list of some common signs of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction:
- accidentally leaking urine when you exercise (especially running, jumping, lifting weights)
- accidentally losing control of bowel or bladder when coughing, sneezing or laughing
- an urgent need to get to the toilet quickly, or not making it there in time
- uncontrolled wind or flatulence
- inability to void urine or faeces (leading to straining), or needing to sit for long periods on the toilet to empty your bladder or bowel
- pain during sex
- pelvic pain
- very slow or intermittent urine stream or the inability to void completely
- a vaginal or rectal prolapse
- in women, (may be felt as a bulging sensation in the vagina or a feeling of fullness, discomfort, pulling, dragging or dropping)
- in men, (may be felt as a bulging sensation in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bowels but not actually needing to go
- **Sudden changes in urination may indicate a Urinary Tract Infection, which should be diagnosed and treated by your GP.
How do pelvic floor problems occur?
Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur due to the muscles being stretched, weakened or too tight. Pregnancy and childbirth is a common contributor to weakened or overstretched pelvic floor muscles. Age and menopause, high BMI (over 25), or being overweight, a history of constipation or straining (habits often learned at a young age when we are told to hurry up and finish in the toilet) and poor toilet sitting position, surgery, genetic factors, and poor lifting techniques may also factor. Tight or overactive pelvic floor muscles may result from continual squeezing or contracting the muscles.
The good news is, the pelvic floor muscles can be trained, just like any other muscle in the body, but it does take patience and regular conscious practice.
If you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction or incontinence, you are not alone. Contact us today to make an appointment to discuss your experience and how a muscle retraining program can help.
The Continence Foundation of Australia is also a great resource for information relating to continence and pelvic floor issues. Go to http://www.continence.org.au/pages/how-do-pelvic-floor-muscles-help.html