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Physical Therapy & Overactive Bladder

People with overactive bladder (OAB) experience a strong and sudden urge to urinate. They may find themselves waking up two or more times each night to use the bathroom. OAB may also cause involuntary loss of urine, known as urge incontinence.

One treatment option for urge incontinence due to OAB is a specialized form of physical therapy known as pelvic floor physical therapy. A trained physical therapist will work with you to help you coordinate the muscles of the pelvic floor and bladder through muscle-training exercises such as Kegels.

What is pelvic floor physical therapy?

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a form of physical therapy that helps you to properly engage the pelvic floor muscles that regulate the release of urine and feces.

Some of these exercises may include:

  • Kegel exercises, which focus on tightening and holding the muscles that control urine flow

  • abdominal exercises

  • exercises that target the glutes, such as glute bridges and squats

  • exercises to help strengthen your posture

A pelvic floor physical therapist may also teach you other behavioral strategies that can help control a sudden, frequent, or uncontrollable urge to urinate. These may include:

  • bladder training and urge suppression strategies

  • lifestyle measures, such as diet

  • programmed urination

How can pelvic floor physical therapy help with OAB?

Muscles around the bladder can become weak due to a number of factors, such as:

  • childbirth

  • weight

  • age

  • changes in hormones

  • constipation

  • prostate cancer treatments

The takeaway

Pelvic floor physical therapy can teach you exercises that help you gain control of your bladder and reduce your symptoms. A trained pelvic floor physical therapist can help you to locate and contract your pelvic floor muscles and plan a routine that works for you.

If you’re still having problems with bladder control after working with a pelvic floor physical therapist, see your doctor. You may need to combine these techniques with medication or other treatments.

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