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Fall 2005

Urinary Incontinence Responds to Biofeedback/Exercise

A new method combining biofeedback with pelvic floor exercises improves bladder control problems in up to 70 percent of patients, notes Larissa Rodriguez, M.D., codirector of UCLA’s Urinary Incontinence & Voiding Dysfunction Center.

 “Urinary incontinence—the potentially embarrassing involuntary loss of urine— affects between 30 to 40 percent of men and women and becomes more likely with age, but it need not be a normal part of the aging process,” Dr. Rodriguez says.

Using biofeedback techniques with Kegel exercises, pelvic floor therapy teaches patients to contract muscles in the pelvic floor more efficiently, resulting in improved bladder control. Patients attend six weekly sessions, and practice exercises at home.

“It’s like physical therapy for the pelvic floor,” Dr. Rodriguez explains. An internal probe may be used to monitor contractions, or electric stimulation employed to create a slight pulse to cause pelvic muscles to contract.

“We can also combine biofeedback with other strategies, such as fluid restriction, behavior modification and medications. Harder-to-treat cases may require surgery,” she notes. “However, pelvic floor therapy and biofeedback can help some patients avoid medications or surgery.”

The term “urinary incontinence” encompasses both urge incontinence, where the bladder contracts involuntarily, leading to urgency or leakage, as well as stress incontinence, prompted by an activity such as coughing, sneezing, or laughing. In women, symptoms can be triggered following childbirth or menopause.

Other candidates for pelvic floor therapy include people with bladder problems resulting from surgeries, pelvic trauma, pelvic pain, neurological diseases and weak pelvic muscles.

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