It's estimated that 3 out of every 5 people will experience incontinence at some point in their life. The inability to keep your bladder in check can be an embarrassing topic to discuss but you shouldn't ignore and choose to live with the problem.
"What we're going to have you start with is your legs hip width apart." Said Sandy Cope, a physical therapist at Avera Sacred Heart.
Physical therapy is probably the last place you'd expect to find patients seeking help in controlling their bladder.
"Incontinence is a treatable condition it's detrimental if it's not treated." Said Cope.
Just like a patient rehabbing a repaired rotator cuff, Sandy runs her patients through exercises that target the muscles responsible for incontinence.
"These exercises with the ball and the band are mostly just to provide resistance to the muscles that have the most affect on lifting that pelvic floor." Said Cope.
The pelvic floor muscles, like their name implies are on bottom of the pelvis and help keep things in place and functioning properly. Now these muscles are only about as thick as eight Kleenex tissues, so over time if they aren't exercised they can weaken and make it difficult to control your bathroom habits.
"You're going to squeeze and hold for a count of 10." Said Cope.
This is where Sandy comes in.
"The exercises we do try to use the larger muscles of the hip and the legs and the stomach to try and help support those muscles." Said Cope.
The program also includes kegel exercises to help patients focus on breathing properly while working the muscles they may have forgotten about.
"We're going to have you try and contract the muscles in the pelvic floor between the legs from the front all the way to the back."
Think of it as retraining your brain to force your pelvic floor muscles to function properly.
"A lot of it is some simple exercises and just changing your lifestyle and it's learning what we call physiological quieting which is a way to rebalance the autonomic nervous system." Said Cope.
Exercises are only one aspect. Cutting out caffeine and adding fiber to your diet is also critical. It is an embarrassing topic, but you shouldn't try to go it alone. Physical therapists like Sandy can develop an exercise routine that's tailored to you.
"People that we've been working with here not all of them are dealing with incontinence some of them it's just more the increased frequency or difficulty managing urge and some people come because of high pelvic tone and they are unable to release." Said Cope.
Surgery is also an option, but one that you may be able to avoid.
"Usually the first step in addressing an issue with incontinence is to talk with your physician about it." Said Cope.
The next step would be to visit Sandy, so the occasional leak is the least of your worries.
On average incontinence tends to effect more women than men due to pregnancy, but wear and tear eventually catches up to anyone who isn't working those pelvic muscles. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.