Did you know that urinary incontinence has been shown to be related with an increased risk of falls and is the second leading cause of admission into long term care for older women? Osteoporosis, the loss of bone mass as we age can also increase the risks of falls in older women. Being physically active through weight bearing exercise is crucial to prevent progression of osteoporosis and maintain healthy bone mass. However, what if urinary incontinence is preventing you from being as active as you want?
The great news is, pelvic floor physical therapy has been shown to reduce urinary incontinence in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. In a recent study, 48 women with postmenopausal urinary incontinence were randomized into 12 weeks of pelvic floor physical therapy once per week (treatment group) versus osteoporosis education (control group). The results of the study showed:
- At 3 month follow up, the treatment group receiving pelvic floor physical therapy had a statistically significant decrease (75%) in the median number of leakage episodes on their 7 day bladder diaries versus the control group receiving no pelvic floor physical therapy.
- At one year follow up, the treatment group that received 12 weeks of pelvic floor physical therapy still had a significant difference in the number of leakage episodes on their 7 day bladder diaries and leakage on a 24 hour pad test
- At one year follow up, the treatment group that received 12 weeks of pelvic floor physical therapy showed increased favorable scores on the impact of urinary incontinence on their daily life as measured by the Urogenital Distress Inventory (UDI).
- At one year follow up urinary incontinence worsened in the control group’s participants (leakage episodes increased by about 50% from baseline)
If you are a postmenopausal woman that is struggling with urinary incontinence, coming in for a pelvic floor muscle evaluation is a smart idea, because you could be addressing an issue that could cause negative ripple effects on your health down the road. Physical Therapists trained in pelvic floor muscle and orthopedic rehabilitation can be a valuable part of your medical team to keep you active and healthy through your whole life span. Urinary incontinence is not normal at any age, and conservative measures can help keep you dry and moving. Appropriate exercise is one of the best medicines for keeping us healthy, so don’t let the embarrassment or concern over urinary incontinence keep you from living to your full potential.
Andrea Wood, PT, DPT, PRPC
Sran M, Mercier J, Wilson P, et al. Physical therapy for urinary incontinence in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or low bone density: a randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 2016; 23(3): 286-293.