If you suffer from embarrassing bladder or bowel control problems that limit your freedom and activities, you are not alone. Billions are spent on incontinence protection pads each year, but there is a much better way! While bladder and bowel control problems tend to become worse with age, these ailments should not be considered a normal part of aging. Described below are problems commonly experienced by women. Keep reading to discover an effective, noninvasive treatment to overcome these problems.
What are Bladder and Bowel Control Problems?
Stress Urinary Incontinence is caused by a weakening of the pelvic muscles and nerves involved in bladder control. Sufferers commonly have urine leakage when they laugh, cough, sneeze, or exercise.
Overactive Bladder, or Urge Incontinence is characterized by unexpected contractions of the bladder muscle that can lead to leaking (urge incontinence). Women with this problem often feel a strong need to go to the bathroom but they are unable to get there in time. They may lose urine when they hear running water or put their key in the door. Sufferers also may have urinary frequency during the day or night. It is not uncommon to have both stress incontinence and overactive bladder, known as Mixed Incontinence.
Fecal Incontinence may be related to a weak anal sphincter, and is particularly troublesome when diarrhea is present. One may have urgency, problems getting to the bathroom on time, or may notice some fecal smearing, having had no sensation of it happening.
Constipation is a common problem for women. Sometimes it can be controlled with medication or diet, but in some cases there is inability to relax pelvic muscles appropriately to empty the bowel. This is where a specialized treatment is needed.
Pelvic Floor Therapy: Regaining Control of Your Pelvic Muscles
The Pelvic Floor is a group of muscles that attach to the front, back, and sides of the pelvic bone and sacrum. Like a sling or hammock, these muscles support organs of the pelvis, including the bladder, vagina, uterus, and rectum. Coordinated contraction and relaxation of muscles of the pelvic floor allow for urination, bowel movements, and sexual intercourse. Weakness in pelvic floor muscles is a cause of urinary or fecal incontinence, while abnormal tension or spasm of pelvic floor muscles can cause bladder/bowel urgency, overactive bladder, and urinary frequency. Pelvic floor spasm also can cause bladder pain, pelvic pain, or pain with intercourse.
Pelvic Floor Evaluation and Treatment (referred to here as PFT) is specialized therapy is used to strengthen weakened pelvic floor muscles and/or to re-train overactive or spastic pelvic floor muscles. Thus, PFT can be effective for treating different causes of incontinence of both bowel and bladder, with a large percentage of patients experiencing complete or nearly complete relief of symptoms. PFT is also an effective treatment for pain related to pelvic floor spasm.
The therapy sessions consist of training the brain and pelvic muscles to work together to tighten and relax the pelvic floor muscles appropriately. Your PFT technician will measure contraction and relaxation of the muscles, and these measurements can be interpreted to allow a proper prescription of exercises and other recommendations. This technique shows us how your actions produce results, so you can become well trained on proper technique, which is critical to achieving success.
What about Kegel Exercises? “Kegels” are exercises that can be learned and performed at home to improve stress incontinence, but it is minimally effective for moderate to severe cases, and it is totally ineffective for urge incontinence, frequency, or overactive bladder. In fact, if done incorrectly or too aggressively, Kegel exercises can cause or exacerbate overactive bladder, or lead to pelvic floor muscle spasm. This is why it is so important to have your technique professionally evaluated.
Pelvic Floor Stimulation and Rehabilitation is an additional component of therapy that makes a big difference in treatment success. This part of therapy involves a mild painless electrical stimulation that aids in muscle re-education and strengthening. Depending on the settings, stimulation may be used to rehabilitate weak pelvic floor muscles or to reduce spasm in over-tense pelvic floor muscles. This method of treatment can provide significant improvement in pelvic floor muscle spasm, bowel control problems, and bladder control problems, often producing 80% to 100% cure.
Computerized measurements of pelvic floor contractions are used to guide the patient and monitor progress. The patient will be educated in these techniques so she can continue exercises at home. Typically, for bladder/bowel disorders pelvic floor therapy consists of weekly or biweekly office sessions for a course of 8-12 weeks. If chronic pelvic pain has been a component of the condition for many years, extension of the PFT course is often necessary to achieve optimal results.
Medications do exist for bladder control problems, but they are often not as effective as we’d like, and most patients experience side effects (dry mouth, constipation, dizziness, or blurred vision). Meds must be continued to remain effective, thus the expense continues for life. PFT is a treatment that actually corrects the underlying problem, rather than covering it up with drugs. Surgery is an option for some cases of stress incontinence, but not for urge incontinence, overactive bladder, or most bowel control problems. In some cases, surgical correction of stress incontinence can give rise to urgency or overactive bladder because the procedure can traumatize pelvic floor muscles, leading to spasm. The beauty of PFT is that it corrects the problem without risk or side effects, rather than putting on a medical bandaid or surgically altering a part of your anatomy.
Women’s Wellness Center Bladder / Bowel Control Consultation
When you schedule a Bladder and/or Bowel Control Consultation at Women’s Wellness Center, you are taking the first step in regaining control. We understand you may feel apprehension or embarrassment about this issue. Don’t let that stop you from getting the help you need! We love helping women reach their goals; and we are here to guide you through the process and make a difference.
Prior to consultation, each patient will be asked to complete and submit a questionnaire to describe her bladder and/or bowel control issues. During a consultation, you will visit with gynecologist Dr. Laura Grant. She will review your questionnaire and history, listen as you describe your symptoms and experiences, and perform a pelvic exam. As part of your evaluation, there may also be a need for a pelvic ultrasound and a specialized test of bladder function. An evaluation and treatment plan will be recommended with the goal of getting you on the pathway to freedom from incontinence worries.
Don’t Let Embarrassment Stop You From Receiving Help
Women often suffer in silence with these problems. Take the advice of our patients (their comments below). Don’t allow fear and embarrassment to prevent you from getting the help you need. Join those who have regained their confidence and freedom!
A long-time sufferer of urinary incontinence: “Bladder leakage can be extremely embarrassing. I delayed getting treatment due to the embarrassment factor. However, I finally had to ask about my options. I did consider surgery, but really felt it would be too invasive. I must admit, even thought pelvic floor therapy appeared to be the best option, I was very hesitant at first. I should not have been hesitant – my nurse and the rest of the staff made me feel extremely comfortable with the process. The most important thing was it helped. I no longer have the leakage issues I once had. I have to maintain on my own (keep up the exercises), but this is so much better than the alternative! I am completely satisfied and would recommend this treatment to others.”
A sufferer of pelvic pain and urinary incontinence: “Before treatment I’d laugh if someone suggested jumping jacks. Now I have zero leakage issues and can exercise all I want!”
A woman who presented with pelvic pain and fecal incontinence: “I had no idea that PFT was even a ‘thing!’ I am so much better and feel healthier after treatment. Also, it was not as embarrassing as I thought it would be! Dianna (pelvic therapy technician) was a gem! I never felt embarrassed. I would recommend this therapy to others.”
A woman who presented with daily bladder leakage: “PFT was very effective for me. Coming to Women’s Wellness Center was the best thing I ever did. Everyone was amazing and answered all of my questions. They are wonderful at listening, which is so rare at most doctors’ offices. I honestly feel like they care about me.”
A woman who suffered urinary urgency and frequency: “Before I came to Women’s Wellness Center, I was urinating upwards of 12 times a day and 3 times a night. My primary care doctor didn’t listen to my concerns and wrote this off as being symptoms of perimenopause. I sought a second opinion at Women’s Wellness and was so relieved to find a doctor who listened to me, was sympathetic, and offered hope that these issues could be treated. I have always felt completely at ease at Women’s Wellness Center dealing with a problem that some would consider embarrassing to discuss. Throughout the testing and treatments, everyone at Women’s Wellness Center has been very sympathetic, understanding, and extremely patient. I’ve learned a lot about what I can do to make my symptoms better, and I’m now enjoying life without that constant urge driving me crazy. Dianna (pelvic therapy technician) is awesome. She has been instrumental in making my life much more livable.”
Pelvic Floor Therapy is Affordable
With today’s high insurance deductibles and co-insurance payments, out of pocket expenses for healthcare can be significant. Women’s Wellness Center offers interest-free payment plans for PFT, so patients can receive the needed treatment right away, and spread payments over one or two years. Monthly payments can be quite affordable, and well worth it to experience freedom from these embarrassing problems. After your initial consultation, if you are an appropriate candidate for PFT, you will have an opportunity to speak with a staff member to discuss your individual health insurance plan coverage and options for ease of affordability.
To make an appointment
If you would like to consider evaluation and non-invasive treatment for bladder or bowel control problems, call Women’s Wellness Center at 573-449-9355, and ask for a Consultation.