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Urinary Incontinence Treatment with Exercise
Anti-incontinence exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that hold the bladder in place). These muscles are also called the levator ani muscles. They are named levator muscles because they hold (elevate) the pelvic organs in their proper place. When the levator muscles weaken, the pelvic organs move out of their normal place (prolapse), and stress incontinence results. Physical therapy is usually the first step to treat stress incontinence caused by weakened pelvic muscles. If aggressive physical therapy does not work, surgery may be necessary.
There are special exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Exercises can be done alone or with vaginal cones, biofeedback therapy, or electrical stimulation. In general, exercise is a safe and effective treatment that should be used first to treat urge and mixed incontinence. These exercises must be performed correctly to be effective; if the patient is using abdominal muscles or contracting the buttocks, these exercises are being performed improperly. If individuals have difficulty identifying the levator muscles, biofeedback therapy can help. For some people, electrical stimulation further enhances pelvic muscle rehabilitation therapy.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The first step in pelvic muscle rehabilitation is to establish a better awareness of the levator muscle function. Pelvic floor exercises, sometimes called Kegel exercises, are a rehabilitation technique used to tighten and tone the pelvic floor muscles that have become weak over time. These exercises strengthen the sphincter muscle to prevent urine from leaking out due to stress incontinence. These exercises can also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to prevent pelvic prolapse (improper movement of pelvic organs). Kegel exercises can also eliminate urge incontinence. Contracting the urinary sphincter muscle makes the bladder muscle relax. Pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation may be used to reprogram the urinary bladder to decrease the frequency of incontinence episodes.
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