Urinary Incontinence

Millions of women are affected by incontinence. This common problem need not be suffered in silence: it is treatable.

Urinary incontinence is a surprisingly common problem and affects approximately 3.5 million women in the UK. It can be an issue for women of all ages, though it does occur more often in older than younger women. However, the condition is treatable and curable for all ages. It is not a condition to hide away and feel ashamed of.

There are three main types of urinary incontinence: stress, urgency and mixed.

  1. Stress urinary incontinence is the complaint of involuntary leakage on effort or exertion e.g. sneezing.
  2. Urgency urinary incontinence is the complaint of involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency.
  3. Mixed urinary incontinence is the complaint of involuntary loss of urine associated with urgency and on exertion.

The Pelvic Floor Muscles

The pelvic floor muscles – superior view (Image by OpenStax College)

The pelvic floor muscles run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. These muscles are shaped like a sling and hold your pelvic organs in place. Weakness of the pelvic floor muscles can result in urine leakage.

Government health guidelines recommend supervised pelvic floor muscle training to strengthen the pelvic floor in order to cure or improve a number of women’s health problems.

Some Risk Factors for Urinary Incontinence

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Repeated straining e.g. chronic constipation


On your first visit the physiotherapist will carry out a detailed assessment to obtain a history of your condition. Tests that may be performed include: a bladder diary and vaginal examination (with your consent). Following your assessment treatment may include:

  • Pelvic floor re-training and exercises
  • Bladder re-education and training
  • Biofeedback
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Provision of pelvic floor educators/muscle stimulators
  • Pilates based pelvic stability exercises

How to look after your pelvic floor

Repeated lifting of heavy objects can weaken your pelvic floor. To prevent this try to avoid heavy lifting and contract your pelvic floor when you perform these activities.

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