We Don't Talk About That (Incontinence)
Avoid Embarrassing Leaks and Spurts
Electrical Stimulation Can Help You Control Your Muscles, Improve Your Self-Image
First thing, realize you aren't alone. As many as 80 million people experience some level of incontinence and 80% of these are reportedly women. Reportedly because men are more likely not to admit it. There are many factors which can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, including pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging and being overweight. There are things you can do to improve your situation, and they all do not include diapers. You learned when you were a child how to "hold it" and not have a problem. Guess what, it is time to learn again - but this time you may have some help.
Are you experiencing any of the following?
- Leak a few drops of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing
- Have a strong, sudden urge to urinate just before losing a large amount of urine (urinary incontinence)
Stress Incontinence and Urge Incontinence are separated only by sources, not by improvement. Either case improves with increased strength in the Kegel muscles, those muscles responsible for shutting off the flow of urine on command.
During pregnancy or after childbirth Kegel muscles can be exercised to try to prevent urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises — along with counseling and sex therapy — might also be helpful for women who have persistent difficulty reaching orgasm or experiencing pelvic pain.
Not everyone is going to benefit 100% from doing Kegel muscle strengthening exercises. In some cases, women who have severe urine leakage when they sneeze, cough or laugh and women who unexpectedly leak small amounts of urine due to a full bladder (overflow incontinence) may not have as great an improvement.
What are my options? You can try to identify and exercise your Kegel muscles yourself. This is very common and obviously the most discreet means of getting a "workout" as no one needs to know what you are doing when you are doing it. In some cases it is better to be able to lie down to do the exercises but not always necessary. Here is a bit of a guide for doing these personal training exercises:
- Find the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you've got the right muscles.
- Perfect your technique. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and lie on your back. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- Maintain your focus. For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
- Repeat 3 times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
Another option for training these muscles is utilizing NMES or neuromuscular electrical stimulation through the use of newly approved durable medical devices. These specially designed devices utilize electrical stimulation to cause the specific muscles in need of exercise to contract and relax on a given program.
A specially designed probe is inserted into the vagina that has exposed electrodes which will contact the wall of the vagina and ultimately engage the Kegel muscles. This probe is connected to a device that delivers a highly regulated level of stimulation in a way that imparts the contraction to the specific muscle groups for a programmed period of time, then releases the muscle. This continues on and off, for a programmed period of time until the workout is complete. In some cases, there are devices available that provide some form of biofeedback allowing the user to see just how much they have improved their muscle tone over time.
There are many kinds of incontinence. Stress and Urge incontinence are more likely applications for e-stim improvement. In the case of Urge Incontinence, think of it as a muscle spasm. A muscle that has more of an uncontrolled release or knotting up that can be painful. By utilizing short contractions of the muscle groups, the muscle can learn to relax and to contract more on command. In this case it isn't as much of a strengthening of the muscles as it is in a retraining of the muscles allowing them to relax and become controlled.
The real feedback is when the patient can have more control over these muscle groups. Additionally, stronger pelvic floor muscles can have the added value of less pelvic floor pain, less Dyspareunia.
As a society, these topics are less likely to be discussed openly. Unfortunately that leads to less discussion even with medical professionals. Companies, such as Zynex Medical, have continued to produce new medical devices like the In-Wave which recently was approved by the FDA for treatment of Stress and Urge incontinence through improving the strength of the muscles in question utilizing NMES. The key here is the In-Wave is receiving insurance acceptance and may improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.