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World Continence Week – Let's Break the Taboo

Most people think of incontinence as loss of bladder or bowel control when you cough or sneeze (or jump!), but did you know rushing to the toilet every time you get an urge (being unable to delay at all) or not quite making it in time also constitutes pelvic health dysfunction or incontinence? Or have you noticed you have to rush to the toilet every time you pull into the driveway when you get home, or put the key in the front door? These triggers, if left unattended, can result in the development of urge incontinence. Is your sleep being disrupted by having to get up to empty your bladder or bowel too many times over night? Or are you finding yourself missing out on social events or not leaving the house because you don’t know where the nearest toilet may be?

Bladder and bowel problems affect 1 in 4 Australians of ANY age, yet most people don’t seek help – the taboo around discussing this area of dysfunction weighs heavily on people’s quality of life, often causing them to miss out on activities they would otherwise participate in and carries with it a hidden financial hardship. It is important to remember that incontinence is not just a woman’s problem, nor is it an inevitable part of ageing – though lack of management and inability to cope with its ramifications in older age are often reasons for admission to elderly care. More than 5 million Australians over the age of 15 are incontinent, and of those, over 1.34 million are men or boys – it is a universal health issue and a community one as a result, so why aren’t we comfortable seeking help?

Sadly, many could have a totally different experience if they reached out to their trusted healthcare provider and started the conversation. There is so much that can be done to help and even cure incontinence, often without the need for surgery! Simple lifestyle modifications, dietary factors, exercise and pelvic floor muscle function all play a role in the management of incontinence.

This all starts with a thorough assessment to determine what is right for you – it is not a one size fits all approach and that is why finding a therapist or healthcare professional with the right training and qualifications is paramount when it comes to achieving your treatment goals. Pelvic Health and Continence Physiotherapists have post graduate qualifications and extra training which specifically covers this scope of practice – with appointment times that allow for thorough history taking as well as the provision of education, it is our aim that clients leave sessions feeling lighter, more empowered, with a greater understanding of their body, how it works AND their capacity to regain control.

Assessment techniques can include internal assessment of the pelvic floor, but we are not limited to this practice. The use of real time ultrasound machines has enabled Physios to quickly and effectively assess and reassess the pelvic floor muscles in a non-invasive manner – it is also a great feedback tool for those that have ever wondered what a pelvic floor contraction might look like!

Though, pelvic floor muscles are just one aspect of dealing with incontinence and that is why it is so important to have an assessment and discuss your situation with a professional – understanding your bladder and bowel, your gut function and how your daily movement practice or hormonal profile may impact all these things are all elements that a skilled practitioner can walk through with you in an effort to ease your symptoms.

If 1 in 4 people in Australia are living with incontinence, chances are you, or someone you know and love is affected. It is time to break the taboo and start the conversation. Statistics suggest that 70% of people living with incontinence don’t seek help – this shouldn’t be the case as there is so much that can be done to help. No referrals are needed to see a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist, so why not reach out today?


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