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There are certain things that people aren’t comfortable talking about. 

And while we all have bladders, many of us don’t like to talk about them. Fear of embarrassment when things aren’t functioning correctly often prevents people from seeking treatment. But bladder health is critical for optimal wellness. And one of the most common concerns for many Americans is urinary incontinence. Recent reports indicate that one-quarter to one-third of all men AND women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence, and about 33 million have overactive bladder. While often relegated to our older population, incontinence affects younger people too.

How the Bladder Works

A lot of body parts come into play during urination. During urination, muscles within the bladder tighten to move the urine out. At the same time, the muscles in the urethra relax to allow the urine to pass. A healthy bladder can store about two cups of urine for two to five hours comfortably. Circular muscles called sphincters help prevent the urine from leaking, and nerves in the bladder tell the brain when it is time to urinate. If the muscles are weak or the messages from the nerves in the bladder to the brain are jumbled, leakage can occur. 

Why Incontinence Happens

There are numerous causes of urinary incontinence. The most common causes include weak or overactive bladder muscles, weak pelvic floor muscles, damage to the nerves that control the bladder, such as in some people with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, as well as men with an enlarged prostate. While the risk for overactive bladder increases with age, the risk also increases with pregnancy. And the more babies women have, the greater the risk for developing urinary incontinence. 

How to Get to the Root of Urinary Incontinence

Treatments such as medication can help some people with urinary incontinence. However, they don’t address the root cause. Physical therapy can be a very effective way to manage incontinence. However, not all physical therapists specialize in pelvic health, so it is important to see someone who does. During the initial evaluation, the physical therapist will review a patient’s medical history and concerns and assess the strength, endurance, coordination, and tone of the pelvic floor to determine how well it’s supported. 

Physical therapists can also gather information on how well your pelvic floor muscles work using a device called biofeedback. Biofeedback allows both the physical therapist and the patient to visually see when the pelvic floor muscles are working and how well they are working. It also provides insight into when they are overactive, which is often the case with pelvic pain disorders and overactive bladder. Once the physical therapist gathers this information, treatment can begin. 

Regardless of how the problem began, men and women should understand that symptom improvement can occur in just a few visits. The first step to relief is making a phone call to schedule an evaluation with a pelvic floor physical therapist.