What is Incontinence?


Incontinence refers to the involuntary/accidental loss of urine, faeces or wind. It can be described as a small leak to a large loss. The sad part of this realisation is that people just-put-up-with-it. ARGH!

YES, it is common. NO, it is not normal.

Read: You are NOT alone and help IS available.

Often the first port of call is a visit to the supermarket to the personal hygiene aisle or if you are not too embarrassed a GP.  However, Physiotherapists specialising in Women’s Health are equipped with the skills to conservatively manage most cases and should be exhausted before medical or surgical intervention is considered. And NO, wearing a pad is not the solution here people!

Today lets discuss the most common type of incontinence- urinary.

Stress incontinence

Is the loss of urine due to increases in abdominal pressure. This typically occurs in situations such as coughing, sneezing, laughing and exercise. Factors that can exacerbate the leaks include diabetes, chronic cough (asthma, smoking and bronchitis), constipation and obesity.

It is more common in women (thank you babies and menopause!) than in men.

Urge incontinence

Is the sudden and strong need to urinate. What usually happens: the bladder (also a muscle) relaxes as it fills. As it fills, it stretches and when it gets to about the 50% full mark, signals are sent to our brain producing the feeling of needing to pass urine.

In most people we can hold off on this initial feeling. However, in persons with a ‘sensitive/overactive bladder’, the message is interpreted as ‘I’m really full here and I need to release!’. This results in the bladder contracting too early (i.e. when it is not very full) and unfortunately not when you want it to. 

Often these symptoms can be accompanied with frequently having to pass urine day and/or night. 

Things that can worsen urge incontinence include caffeine, soft drink or alcohol, constipation, enlarged prostate or poor bladder habits. Some neurological conditions also interfere with the ability to send the correct feedback to the brain.

Incontinence due to urinary retention

This occurs when the bladder is unable to empty properly resulting in small leaks of urine. Often signs of this include: 

  • Straining to pass urine
  • Slow flow
  • Don’t feel like you’ve fully emptied your bladder
  • Dribbling between toilet visits
  • Ongoing UTI or cystitis or 
  • Weeing whilst asleep

So this has been a brief introduction to the main types urinary incontinence. If this sounds like you, its time you spoke to someone about it. If you have any concerns, feel free to drop me an email at preet@ifcpt.com to discuss if physiotherapy can help you.

Enjoy the rain!