Urinary incontinence, or the unwanted leakage of urine, is a common and frustrating complaint among women. The amount of leakage can be small to large, and can happen only with exertion such as sneezing or exercising, or even just sitting at rest. While incontinence can become an issue at most any age, the incidence certainly increases with age. All of your muscles will weaken without exercise, and the pelvic floor muscles that help us remain dry are no exception. Fortunately, the pelvic floor muscles typically respond well to properly done exercises!
Proper pelvic floor exercises (commonly known as “Kegels”) require you to squeeze this muscle group as if trying to stop the flow of gas or urine. You then lift the muscle group as if trying to draw this area up and into your pelvis. Do not bear down or push with your abdominal muscles, as it is all about the lift from below! While you can try to stop the flow of urine to see if you know how to properly contract the pelvic floor muscles, do not exercise while urinating on a routine basis as this is confusing for your bladder.
Try doing three sets of 10 pelvic floor contractions each day. Hold the contraction for a two count and then relax for a five count between each repetition. You can easily do more than 30 repetitions in a day by adding in some extras. For example, do some Kegels while watching TV commercials or doing the dishes. In the car, tell yourself “at the light, make it tight!” When you feel a sneeze coming on, say “freeze, squeeze, sneeze!” to prepare the pelvic floor muscle for the extra pressure coming their way.
If you are not seeing some results in four to six weeks, you might ask your doctor if a referral to a pelvic floor Physical Therapist is appropriate. Your problem could be further assessed and your program more individually structured. As with any exercise program, if your symptoms are worsening then stop the exercises and call your doctor. Good luck!
About Christine Dooley, PT
As a graduate of the University of Connecticut with a degree in Physical Therapy, Christine Dooley has been a licensed physical therapist for almost four decades, a majority of that time with Reliant Medical Group. After beginning her career in Orthopedics, Christine now treats almost exclusively patients (women, men and children) with pelvic floor disorders. After a thorough history and assessment, treatments may include patient...View profile View posts by this doctor