Bladder Control and Incontinence

Millions of Americans suffer from involuntary loss of bladder or bowel contents. This condition, called incontinence, mostly affects women and often leads to embarrassment, avoidance of social activities, decreased physical activity, depression, and can even interfere with employment. The two most common types of incontinence are stress (sneezing or coughing) and urge (the "got-to-go" feeling) – both of which can be treated with medications. A large percentage of people with incontinence suffer silently and do not seek help because they believe their problem is simply a normal part of aging, an expected consequence of having a baby, or is only correctable with surgery or medication.

Symptoms of Incontinence

Incontinence is a symptom, not a disease, and it is treatable. Incontinence may be caused by nervous system injuries, pelvic injury or surgery, and/or changes associated with the aging process. Incontinence is not, however, a normal result of aging. In many cases, incontinence is caused by weakness in the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles form a sling, like a hammock, supporting the bottom of the pelvis and aiding in controlling the flow of urine and bowel contents.

If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, you may experience accidents during certain activities or movements such as jumping, lifting, running, sneezing, or laughing. Weakness in the pelvic muscles may also contribute to "overactive bladder," when a sudden, strong, and uncontrolled urge to urinate or empty the bowels catches you by surprise.

Management of Incontinence

At St.Vincent Women’s Hospital, we understand that losing control to incontinence is challenging. We also know that proper diagnosis and management is imperative. There are many non-surgical approaches to the management of this annoying condition. We offer help for bladder or bowel control problems (incontinence) through physical therapy facilitated by specially trained physical therapists. Our physical therapists take a caring, private approach to treating incontinence, and also work closely with women before and after surgical procedures.

Patients are educated about normal bladder functioning and habits that may help or harm their progress. For example, many patients experience significant relief just by drinking more water and decreasing caffeine and alcohol in their diet. Correct training of the pelvic floor muscles (often called Kegel exercises), are an essential part of continence rehabilitation and ultimately gaining control of the patient’s symptoms.

Other areas of rehabilitation specialty include pelvic pain and chronic constipation, as well as therapy before and after gynecological surgeries.

If you are experiencing incontinence or would like more information about our services and offerings, please call (317) 338-4HER for a free consult. You may also visit or