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Physical Therapy for Incontinence – Information, Exercises, and More

You are struggling with incontinence. 

Laughing, coughing, and sneezing have all become stressful bodily functions for you. 

You’ve stopped doing activities that you love out of fear of having an embarrassing moment. 

There are treatments that can help you.

In this guide, we will talk about the signs and symptoms of incontinence, and which treatment options may be right for you.

What is Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence refers to the loss of bladder control.

The severity of incontinence can range from occasionally leaking urine when sneezing or coughing to having sudden, strong urges to urinate that can result in not making it to the bathroom in time.

What Causes Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is not a disease, but rather a symptom that can be caused by medical issues or daily habits. 

Some causes of temporary incontinence include: 

  • Consuming certain drinks that act as diuretics like carbonated drinks, caffeinated drinks, and alcohol.  
  • Consuming certain foods that act as diuretics like chili peppers, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, and foods that are high in spice, sugar, or acid.
  • Certain medications like blood pressure medication, heart medications, sedatives, and relaxants.
  • Medical issues such as constipation or a urinary tract infection. 
  • Large doses of vitamin C.

Some causes of long term incontinence include: 

  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
  • Childbirth or menopause

Incontinence Symptoms

There are different types of incontinence.

Incontinence symptoms can vary depending on the type of incontinence you are experiencing.

It is important to always speak with your doctor about symptoms so other medical issues can also be ruled out.

Let’s take a look at some of the different urinary incontinence types and accompanying symptoms that may be affecting you.

Urinary Stress Incontinence

This is a common type of incontinence that occurs when the pelvic muscles become weak and no longer support the bladder and urethra correctly. 

Women are more likely to develop stress incontinence than men. 

Studies show that one-third of adult women have stress incontinence on a weekly basis.

Certain actions and activities can put pressure on the bladder and cause leakage such as: 

  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing
  • Laughing
  • Lifting
  • Bending 
  • Straining

Physical therapy for stress incontinence can help strengthen the pelvic muscles to prevent leaks. 

Overactive Bladder or Urgency Urinary Incontinence

Overactive bladder incontinence (OAB) is associated with a strong urgency to urinate and is often accompanied by frequent urination. 

If you are unable to make it to the bathroom, the type of leakage is classified as urgency urinary incontinence (UUI).

Overflow Incontinence

This type of incontinence occurs when the bladder doesn’t empty correctly, causing it to overflow and cause leaks. 

Signs of overflow incontinence include: 

  • Frequent, small urinations
  • Ongoing dribbling


This type of incontinence typically occurs in males with prostate problems. 

Mixed Incontinence

It is possible to have more than one type of urinary incontinence.

Mixed incontinence refers to having two or more different types of incontinence.

Consulting a doctor to find out if you have one or more types of incontinence can help determine the cause of your urinary leaks so you can receive proper treatment. 

Incontinence Treatment

Incontinence treatment can vary depending on the type and severity of incontinence you are experiencing, as well as the underlying cause. 

Your doctor may prescribe a combination of treatments. 

Conservative and non-invasive treatments are usually implemented first, and more advanced treatments may be prescribed if there is no relief from your symptoms. 

Let’s take a look at some treatment options that may be available to you.

Behavioral Techniques

Certain techniques and lifestyle changes can help reduce your symptoms.

Some techniques your doctor may recommend include:

  • Bladder training. This exercise involves delaying urination after feeling the urge to go to help retrain the bladder.
  • Scheduled toilet trips. This practice involves trying to go to the bathroom every two hours instead of waiting for the urge to go. 
  • Double voiding. Waiting a few minutes after urinating and trying to urinate again can help you learn to empty your bladder more when going to the bathroom.
  • Fluid and diet management. Avoiding food and drinks that act as diuretics, reducing fluid intake, and increasing exercise can help reduce symptoms.


Some medications that may be used to treat incontinence include: 

  • Anticholinergics. Medications like oxybutynin can help calm an overactive bladder and reduce incidences of incontinence.
  • Mirabegron. This medication relaxes bladder muscled and can help increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold. Mirabegron may also help you empty your bladder more completely.
  • Alpha-blockers. This type of medication is used for men experiencing overflow incontinence. Alpha-blockers like tamsulosin work to relax the bladder neck muscles and make it easier to empty the bladder.
  • Topical estrogen. Lose-dose topical estrogen is prescribed for women experiencing incontinence. The medication helps improve incontinence symptoms by toning tissues around the urethra and vaginal area.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may prescribe a type of physical therapy for urinary incontinence known as pelvic floor physical therapy. 

This type of physical therapy focuses on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles to help decrease the risk of incontinence episodes. 

Pelvic floor physical therapy exercises may be accompanied by electrical stimulation which can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and effectively decrease incontinence incidences. 

Other Therapies

Other types of therapeutic treatments include: 

  • Bulking material injections. This involves injecting synthetic material around the urethra to help keep it closed and reduce urine leakage. 
  • Botox injections. Botox injected into the bladder can help if you have an overactive bladder.
  • Nerve stimulators. A device is implanted under the skin to electrically stimulate nerves involved in bladder control.

Medical Devices

Some medical devices designed for females can help reduce incontinence symptoms, including: 

  • Urethral insert. This is a small, tampon-like disposable device that is inserted into the urethra to prevent leaks during physical activity. 
  • Pessary. A pessary is a stiff ring that is inserted into the vagina for all-day wear to help hold up the bladder and prevent urine leakage. 


If you aren’t getting results from other treatments, surgery may be recommended. 

Some surgeries used to treat incontinence include: 

  • Sling procedures
  • Bladder neck suspension surgery
  • Prolapse surgery
  • Artificial urinary sphincter implantation

Incontinence Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

The answer is yes. 

Physical therapy for incontinence helps reduce your symptoms and incidences of incontinence by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. 

Pelvic floor weakness, tightness, or uncontrolled spasming can contribute to the inability to control your bladder.

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles helps: 

  • Decrease the urgency to urinate.
  • Keep the urethra closed.

In addition to physical therapy exercises, your physical therapist may use electrodes to measure your pelvic floor activity and stimulate the muscles to help improve function.

Best Incontinence Exercises

The main type of exercises for incontinence involves pelvic floor physical therapy. 

It is important to consult a Doctor of Physical Therapy before attempting any exercises by yourself. 

Let’s take a look at some pelvic floor physical therapy exercises that may be part of your treatment plan.


Kegels are an exercise that helps strengthen the muscles which control urination.

To perform this exercise, you tighten the muscles you would use to stop urinating and hold for a period of time before releasing.

This exercise can be practiced multiple times throughout the day.

Muscle Strengthening Exercises

Your therapist may create a strengthening exercise program for you aimed at stretching and strengthening other muscles that support bladder function alongside pelvic floor therapy.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Incontinence

You don’t have to stop doing the activities you love because of incontinence. 

At In Motion O.C., we are dedicated to helping people like you improve your life through physical therapy. 

As the #1 rated Physical Therapy clinic on Yelp! and Google, we have hundreds of testimonials to assure you that we provide nothing but the best care in physical therapy.

*This information about physical therapy for incontinence was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.