Pelvic floor exercises versus ‘holding on’ in treatment of incontinence

Pelvic floor muscle exercises could feel the squeeze when they go up against toilet techniques in a new study to find the best way to treat incontinence.

From the University of Melbourne’s School of Physiotherapy and Austin Health, Professor Mary Galea says that while pelvic floor muscle exercises are the most commonly used treatment for incontinence, there is no strong evidence that they are the best treatment.

During Seniors Week (13-20 March), Professor Galea and her team are seeking women aged 65 and over who have bladder leakage when they cough, sneeze or move to volunteer for the study.

Professor Galea says, “Incontinence is one of Australia’s biggest health issues. Around two million Australians, mostly women and older people, suffer from the condition and we don’t have strong evidence of what the best treatment is.”

“This is not satisfactory when we know that as many as one-third of women over 60 years of age are affected by stress incontinence. It is time we determined which type of treatment is best suited to improving the embarrassing condition.”

In their study, Professor Galea and colleagues from the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital will investigate whether pelvic floor muscle exercises are more or less effective than toilet training techniques for overcoming incontinence.

The difference? “Pelvic floor muscle exercises involve tightening and squeezing the pelvic floor muscles with the aim of strengthening them over time and therefore regaining bladder control,” Ms Margaret Sherburn (School of Physiotherapy), who is also involved in the study, says.

“Toilet or bladder training on the other hand is focussed on improving the bladder’s capacity to hold more urine. This is achieved by teaching people techniques to enable them to “hold” for longer periods of time when they feel the need to go.”

The project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Contact Margaret Sherburn on (03) 8344 4837 for more information about participating in the study.

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