With World Continence Week commencing on June 17, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has joined the Continence Foundation in calling for increased awareness and support for the more than five million Australians aged over 15 who live with some form of incontinence.

Eighty per cent of these people are women with urinary incontinence caused primarily by pregnancy, child birth and menopause. Despite how common the condition is, APA continence and women’s health physiotherapist Jenny Phillips says it is often embarrassing for women to talk about it with their families and health carers.

“Working up the courage to tell someone about your condition can be hard, but it’s really important for women to know that there is excellent support out there, and women’s health physios in particular can put them at ease while they treat the cause and help them get back to living confidently.”  

“It helps put women at ease if they know what to expect when they first consult a physio about their condition. The key priorities are getting an accurate understanding of the symptoms, whether they are related to urinary or bowel incontinence or sexual discomfort, and understanding how long they have been a cause for concern, as well as other medical problems that may be contributing to the symptoms.”  

Physiotherapists will ask questions about how the bladder and bowel are working, plus any issues with sexual function, as these organs all sit closely together and problems in one area can cause issues in adjacent areas. A physical examination of the pelvis is also likely, as a women’s health physiotherapist can determine whether the problem is caused by pelvic muscles that are overactive or underactive.

“In a small number of cases the problem is related to overactive pelvic muscles, so doing too many pelvic floor exercises can actually lead to increased pain and make emptying the bladder and bowel more difficult, so it’s really important to ensure the physical exam is thorough.”

In most cases a pelvic floor muscle exercise program will be prescribed which will improve how well the muscles work under stress, for example when coughing or laughing. Lifestyle modifications may also be suggested, such as adopting healthy bladder and bowel habits, losing weight, quitting smoking, altering exercise and reducing heavy lifting.

Jenny says the quicker women get treatment for their incontinence and pain problems the quicker they can get back to enjoying their normal lives. “I have seen many women who have delayed getting treatment because of uncertainty about what to do or embarrassment about admitting to incontinence, but physio treatment has great success with the vast majority of women and they can go back to their normal work, social and exercise routines quickly and confidently.”  

Further information on incontinence is available at https://choose.physio/incontinent and http://www.laughwithoutleaking.com.au/


Jenny Phillips is available for further comment or interview.


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