Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence affects more than 13 million Americans. Treatment options available at Northwest Hospital can help restore patients to their active lifestyles and improve their overall enjoyment of life.


Q. What is urinary incontinence? [+/-]

A. There are a few types of incontinence (involuntary leaking of urine). Stress urinary incontinence is the leakage of small amounts of urine with coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting. Urge urinary incontinence is leakage of moderate to large amounts of urine when a person feels a sudden, strong urge to urinate and can’t get to a toilet in time. Mixed incontinence includes symptoms of both stress and urge incontinence. Functional incontinence is urine leakage that occurs when a person cannot get to the toilet in time.


Q. What are the causes of urinary incontinence? [+/-]

A. Stress incontinence often results from weak pelvic floor muscles that are not able to contract strongly enough to prevent leaking when there is an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, as with coughing or sneezing. Causes may include stress on the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and childbirth, episiotomy/tears, injury or trauma, surgery in the vagina or rectum, lack of exercise, repetitive straining (frequent lifting, chronic cough and/or constipation),and prolonged weight gain.

Women with urge incontinence often have weak pelvic floor muscles and an overactive bladder. The bladder may be contracting (emptying) at the wrong times, or there is a sudden feeling (urge) to urinate that may occur frequently. The bladder can be irritated from an infection or certain foods and beverages.


Q. How can physical therapy help? [+/-]

A. Many symptoms of urinary incontinence are caused by pelvic floor muscle weakness and dysfunction and are influenced by your lifestyle habits (including nutrition and exercise) and personal medical/surgical history as well as a lack of knowledge about proper bladder function and voiding (urination) habits.

A specially trained physical therapist can help you gain control of your symptoms.

Physical therapy may include:

  • Education to improve awareness of the function and location of the pelvic floor muscles
  • Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles
  • Education about normal bladder function and voiding habits
  • Completion of a bladder diary to help identify goals and track progress
  • A general conditioning and flexibility program, as well as instruction on correct posture and body mechanics
  • Behavior modification and lifestyle changes to assist with the overall goal of urinary continence
  • Instruction on progression of the exercise program and how to maintain improvements gained with physical therapy
  • Manual therapy techniques (including myofascial release, stretching, muscle energy techniques and joint mobilization) for addressing related painful conditions

Q. Who should be referred to physical therapy to address pelvic floor issues in women? [+/-]

A. Women who have urinary incontinence and need exercise and education to improve the function of their pelvic floor muscles and reduce or alleviate their symptoms.


Q. How can I schedule an appointment at the Northwest Hospital outpatient rehab department? [+/-]

A. After you obtain a physical therapy prescription from your urologist, urogynecologist or OB/GYN, call 410-496-6975 to schedule an appointment for a physical therapy evaluation.