Treating Bladder Problems, Empowering Women

Bladder leakage is a significant problem for Australian women.  Affecting 1 in 3 women of all ages, this is an issue that needs to be taken seriously.  When a woman is not able to control her bladder, it can affect her life profoundly. Women will often stop exercising, withdraw from intimacy, have reduced self-esteem, and stop doing things they love.  Bladder leakage is very common and also very treatable – and pelvic floor muscle training is the number one recommended treatment world-wide. 
 

Bladder Problems Don’t Discriminate

We often assume bladder problems only affect women who have given birth or gone through menopause.  Yes, these are the two most common times a woman will experience these symptoms, however it is also really common in women who exercise - including those who haven’t had children.  It is particularly common in women who do sports involving running and jumping such as netball, high intensity gym training, and high impact sports, including 50% of tennis players and 62% of long distance runners!  With the rise of females in community sport, particularly with the popularity of the AFLW, we are hearing more and more about how widespread bladder problems and other pelvic floor issues are in our community.
 

Bladder Leakage & Exercise Don’t Mix

A study in Norway reported that bladder leakage was the cause of two out of three women dropping out of exercise1.  An Australian study also found that urinary incontinence was the number one barrier to women participating in exercise.  Although bladder leakage itself is not a life-threatening condition, being sedentary is a known risk factor for many chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  If bladder problems are stopping women from exercising, then this becomes a more significant health issue. 
 

How Can Pelvic Floor Exercises Help?

Pelvic floor muscle training is the number one treatment recommended world-wide for bladder leakage.  Pelvic floor muscle training works by improving the strength and control of the pelvic floor muscles and sphincters around the base of the bladder, and improving support of the urethra and bladder.  For patients who have to rush to the toilet or have trouble getting there in time, pelvic floor contractions can help calm the bladder and control strong urges2.   For pelvic floor exercises to work, you need to have the right technique (1 in 2 women are often doing the wrong thing!), the program needs to have the right intensity to gain change muscle function, it needs to be progressed over time and include functional training during situations when each woman experiences her symptoms.  Best results are often seen after 4-6 months of supervised training under the guidance of a pelvic floor physiotherapist.  
 

Empowering Women

Women with bladder problems are too often told that ‘its normal to leak after having children’ or ‘just wear a pad and learn to live with it’, however this is not OK!  We need to empower women to live their best lives, and for many – improving bladder control can make a big difference.  If bladder problems are holding you back, seek help with one of our experienced pelvic floor physiotherapists, we are here to help you. 
 

References

Brown, W. & Miller, Y. (2001). Too wet to exercise? Leaking urine as a barrier to physical activity in women. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 4(4), 373-378.
2 Bø K (2020) Physiotherapy management of urinary incontinence in females. Journal of Physiotherapy66:147–154