More Australians live with some form of incontinence than hay fever. Yet the stigma surrounding bladder and bowel weakness is such that it is rarely discussed in public. With World Continence Week commencing on Monday June 18 the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is reassuring all Australians that treatment is available.

Incontinence is one of the most common health conditions affecting Australians, with approximately 6 million experiencing the condition during their lifetime.

Pregnancy and giving birth are the most common causes of incontinence in women, while for men it often occurs as a result of prostate surgery and associated radiation therapy. Other causes include stroke/other neurological conditions, diabetes or endocrine diseases, menopause, pelvic surgery and general ageing.

APA pelvic health physiotherapist Dr Irmina Nahon, who is Assistant Professor in Physiotherapy and Clinical Education Coordinator at the University of Canberra, wants to reassure sufferers that help is available, and not to be resigned to it. She said, “Incontinence has a significant effect on quality of life, and has both psychological and financial impacts. It does not have to be endured as a result of ageing or child birth, which many people assume and therefore don’t talk about openly or seek treatment for.”

“Less than one third of people who suffer from incontinence seek appropriate treatment, yet the recovery rate if treated properly is very high.”

“Specialist physios trained in pelvic health management will do a thorough assessment, discuss bladder and bowel habits and techniques and then prescribe a muscle strengthening program to support stronger pelvic floor muscles.”

The International Consultation on Incontinence (2017)1 recommends pelvic floor physiotherapy as first line therapy due to the strength of evidence.

For Australians living in rural and remote regions, access to specialist physiotherapist support for incontinence management can be very difficult. In these instances, telehealth consultations are a good option for support and management of symptoms. They allow physios to effectively review patient progress, prescribe pelvic floor muscle training programs and provide motivation to continue.

Dr Nahon said, “For these patients, telehealth consultations can be the crucial support they need to maintain their programs and allow full recovery.”

Further information on incontinence is available at

Further information on World Continence Week is available at 

1. Dumoulin et al. Committee 12. Adult Conservative Management, in Abrams et al (Eds), 6th Edition 2017 International Consultation on Incontinence. Pp. 1443-1628


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