Urinary incontinence, or loss of bladder control, is a frustrating, and often embarrassing condition. In women, the muscles that help support the bladder may become weak due to multiple pregnancies and vaginal births.
The research team from Rush University Medical Centre have found that a program of pelvic floor muscle exercises, combined with pelvic health education, can be an effective way to manage urinary incontinence.
"Urinary incontinence can take a very real emotional and social toll. Not knowing when and where you might have an accident can impact everything from household chores to dinner dates and bowling games," said physiatrist Dr. Sheila Dugan, co-director of the Program for Abdominal and Pelvic Health at Rush and lead author of the study.
"Many treatment options exist, but strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, as our study has shown, can be very effective even for older women, avoiding the need for drugs or more invasive procedures," she added.
During the study, the researchers recruited 65 women between the ages of 67 and 95, who underwent a supervised chair-based exercise program for six weeks.
The program focused on identifying, isolating and strengthening muscles that support the pelvic area.
In addition to the exercises, the program incorporated an educational curriculum (four sessions) on basic bladder and pelvic health.
The study showed that 83 percent of the women in the treatment group reported that their symptoms had improved
Problems with frequency of urination, urine leakage related to feelings of urgency and urine leakage caused by physical activity, coughing or sneezing had all decreased.
Bladder control problems were less bothersome and also had less of an impact on daily activities like household chores.
The findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society in San Diego.