Bowel and Bladder Incontinence

PLEASE NOTE: following information and associated clinical care relates to female patients only. We are not offering pelvic health care to male patients at this time.

Urinary incontinence is more common than many people want to admit, especially that they themselves suffer with it. Urinary incontinence affects an estimated 20% of people over 40 years old.  By contrast, bowel incontinence is when you feel an urgency to empty your bowels, experience soiling or lose feces from the bowel.

Fortunately, there is a safe, effective approach that doesn’t rely on drugs or surgery.  Both of these types of incontinence can often be successfully treated through exercises that improve the strength of your pelvic floor muscles.

Weak pelvic floor muscles are one of the main and most common causes of incontinence for both women and men.  This is not just a female issue.  If your incontinence is due to a weak pelvic floor, physiotherapy with a properly trained pelvic floor therapist to strengthen these muscles can help in avoiding surgery approximately 80% of the time.  This specialized type of physiotherapy can help with both bowel and bladder incontinence.

Research shows that pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation is less expensive and more effective than incontinence drugs. Other research has also shown that pelvic floor muscle strengthening compared to other non-surgical options is the most effective method for treating urinary and bowel incontinence.

Your pelvic health physiotherapist can:

  • teach you correct use of your pelvic floor muscles in bowel and bladder control
  • teach you how to strengthen them with the appropriate exercises
  • discuss how your diet may be affecting your bowel function
  • discuss the importance of water intake and hydration for bladder and bowel health
  • discuss possible lifestyle changes which will help you manage the problem

Your first session with your physiotherapist will include a detailed assessment, advice and physical treatment, unless in the rare circumstance it is indicated not to. Everything you tell the physiotherapist will be completely confidential, and your health information is stored securely and encrypted for privacy.

To assess how your pelvic floor muscles are working, your physiotherapist most likely will need to give you an internal pelvic examination.  This aspect of the assessment is one of the most important components as it is the most effective method for not only evaluation pelvic floor muscle function, but also to assess your performance of the exercises and evaluate your overall progress throughout care.

Your physiotherapist will discuss this with you and the examination will only take place with your permission. You may have an escort or chaperone with you during this examination if you so choose.

If you do have a physical examination, your physio will need you to remove some clothes and underwear, so it’s a good idea to dress comfortably.  A patient gown and shorts are available if needed, for your convenience and comfort.

How can I help myself?

The best way to help yourself is to make your pelvic floor muscles stronger by exercising them.  Follow up with the care recommended by your physiotherapist and perform the exercises at home on your own in between appointments.

Drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet with a proper amount of fibre, and avoiding too much alcohol and caffeine can also help.   This will all help your bladder and bowels work properly.  Aim for 3 litres of water daily.

Try to prepare for coughing, sneezing or any exertion such as getting up out of a chair or attempting to lift a heavy object by tightening your pelvic floor muscles first.

When you finish using the toilet, engage your pelvic floor muscles to lift your pelvic floor and empty the bladder completely.