How Physical Therapy Can Help with Urinary Incontinence

Joseph Rosi
March 16, 2023

Urinary incontinence is a common condition that can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, affecting physical activity and socialization. It is a condition that can be embarrassing and isolating, and many people suffer in silence without seeking treatment. Fortunately, there are various treatment options available for urinary incontinence, including physical therapy. In this article, we’ll explore how physical therapy can help urinary incontinence, the various techniques used in physical therapy, and the benefits of undergoing this type of treatment.

What is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is a condition where an individual experiences involuntary urine leakage. It can occur due to various reasons such as weakened pelvic floor muscles, nerve damage, or medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or following a prostate surgery. Urinary incontinence can be classified as stress incontinence or urge incontinence.

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when the bladder’s sphincter muscle is weakened, and pressure is placed on the bladder. This pressure can be caused by activities such as coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy objects.  Think of it this way, you will put more stress on your bladder by doing anything strenuous or pushing down on it.  As you bend over, you’re pushing down on the bladder, leaving you more susceptible for leaking.  Same with sneezing, coughing, or doing any strenuous work.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence, on the other hand, occurs when there is a sudden and intense urge to urinate, leading to involuntary urine leakage.  This is often associated with bladder control problems or an overactive bladder.

How Physical Therapy Can Help with Urinary Incontinence

Physical therapy can help individuals with urinary incontinence by assessing the pelvic floor muscle function, specifically pelvic floor muscle strength, pelvic floor weakness, and help determine the best physical therapy treatment to improve your pelvic floor.  In order to put you on a path towards urinary control, your licensed physical therapist will evaluate your pelvic floor and perform a physical exam noting your entire pelvic health.  They will look for the natural contraction of the pelvic floor with the goal of improving the strength and flexibility of the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder and urethra.

A physical therapist can assess an individual’s condition and develop a personalized exercise program that can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Physical therapy for urinary incontinence may include the following techniques:

Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises are pelvic floor muscle exercises that involve contracting and relaxing the muscles that control urine flow. A physical therapist can teach individuals how to perform Kegel exercises correctly and develop an exercise plan that suits their needs. Kegel exercises can be done anywhere, at any time, and without anyone noticing. They are easy to do, and the results can be seen in a matter of weeks.


Biofeedback simply means you get immediate feedback on what you are doing.  This is usually done via a device, either externally via diagnostic ultrasound or internally via a probe.

Externally involves using an ultrasound, similar to what you can imagine an OBGYN using to look for a baby’s heartbeat, except we use it to see the pelvic floor moving.

Internally involves using electrical sensors to measure muscle activity during Kegel exercises. It provides individuals with real-time feedback on their muscle contractions, helping them to perform exercises more effectively. Biofeedback can be a useful tool for individuals who are having difficulty performing Kegel exercises correctly.

Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation involves using low-frequency electrical pulses to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles, improving their strength and function. The electrical stimulation is delivered through a small device that is placed in the vagina or rectum. The device is painless, and the electrical stimulation feels like a gentle tingling sensation. Electrical stimulation is an effective way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, and it can be done in conjunction with other physical therapy techniques.

Bladder Training

Bladder training involves developing a schedule for urination to help individuals with urge incontinence control their bladder and reduce the frequency of involuntary urine leakage. The goal of bladder training is to train the bladder to hold more urine and to reduce the number of trips to the bathroom. Bladder training may include exercises such as pelvic floor muscle training and timed voiding.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Urinary Incontinence

Physical therapy can offer several benefits to individuals with urinary incontinence, including:

  1. Improved bladder control: One of the primary goals of physical therapy for urinary incontinence is to improve bladder control. By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, individuals can better control urine flow, reducing the frequency and severity of urinary incontinence.
  2. Reduced frequency and severity of urinary incontinence: Physical therapy can be an effective way to reduce the frequency and severity of urinary incontinence. By providing individuals with tools and techniques to manage their condition, physical therapy can help them regain control over their bladder and reduce the number of involuntary urine leakage incidents.
  3. Increased quality of life: Urinary incontinence can be a frustrating and isolating condition, and it can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Physical therapy can help individuals regain their confidence and improve their ability to perform daily activities.
  4. Reduced risk of urinary tract infections: Urinary incontinence can increase the risk of urinary tract infections, which can cause discomfort and even lead to more severe complications. Physical therapy can help reduce the frequency of urinary incontinence, which can, in turn, reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
  5. Reduced need for medication or surgery: Physical therapy is a non-surgical and non-invasive treatment for urinary incontinence. It can help individuals manage their condition without the need for medication or surgery, reducing the risk of potential side effects and complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who can benefit from physical therapy for urinary incontinence?

A: Anyone experiencing urinary incontinence can benefit from physical therapy, including men and women of all ages. It is essential to speak with a doctor or physical therapist to determine if physical therapy is the right treatment option for you.

Q: How long does it take to see results from physical therapy?

A: It may take a few weeks or months of regular physical therapy sessions to see significant improvements in bladder control and urinary incontinence symptoms. The length of time it takes to see results can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the individual’s ability to follow the exercise program.

Q: Is physical therapy for urinary incontinence painful?

A: No, physical therapy for urinary incontinence is not painful. It involves gentle exercises and techniques that are designed to improve the strength and function of the pelvic floor muscles. Some individuals may experience mild discomfort during the exercises, but this is normal and should not be a cause for concern.


Urinary incontinence can be a challenging condition to live with, but physical therapy can offer an effective non-surgical treatment option. By improving the strength and flexibility of the pelvic floor muscles, physical therapy can provide long-term benefits and reduce the need for medication or surgery. If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, talk to your doctor about physical therapy as a treatment option. With the right physical therapy program, you can improve your bladder control, reduce the frequency and severity of urinary incontinence, and ultimately improve your quality of life.

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