Originally published on the Life Ready blog

They’re ailments which are generally unspoken of, (for fear of embarrassment), but for a vast number of us, they’re a daily struggle.

Incontinence, prolapse, sexual dysfunction and overactive bladders can cause pain for many amongst us. Here’s how a specialist continence and women’s health physio can help.

What conditions can benefit from continence and women’s health physiotherapy?

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is accidental leakage of urine with activities such as a coughing, sneezing, laughing, running or jumping, really any activity, which puts stress on the bladder.

Stress incontinence is very common, with an estimated 1/3 of the female population and 1/10 of the male population suffering from symptoms.

The majority of cases of stress incontinence – whether mild or severe – can benefit from physiotherapy. In fact, the International Continence Society recommends specialist continence physiotherapy as the first line of treatment for stress incontinence!

Overactive Bladder Syndrome

Overactive bladder syndrome includes the symptoms of urgency, frequency and urge incontinence. Urgency is an overwhelming desire to pass urine – a bossy bladder! Frequency is needing to go to the toilet to pass urine more than 7 times per day and urge incontinence is a loss of bladder control on the way to the toilet.

These symptoms will often occur together. Overactive bladder syndrome is a very common problem, especially in women. The International Continence Society also recommends specialist physiotherapy as the first line of treatment for overactive bladder problems and the majority of cases can be improved or cured with physiotherapy treatment.


Prolapse occurs when one of more of the pelvic organs descends into the vagina from its usual location in the pelvis. It can involve the bladder, uterus and/or bowel. Severity is graded in Stages (1-4) and patients will experience a feeling of ‘something coming down’ or a lump/bulge in their vagina.

Prolapse is common postnatal and in postmenopausal women. The latest research shows that physiotherapy can improve or cure prolapse. It is certainly recommended to seek the advice of a women’s health physiotherapist if you are experiencing symptoms of a prolapse. Even if surgery is required, a strong pelvic floor will ensure the best results and recovery from surgery.

Sexual Dysfunction

Specialist physiotherapy can successfully treat both female and male sexual dysfunctions. In women, painful intercourse is often the result of an overactive or tight pelvic floor.

This can respond well to physiotherapy to relax and release the tight muscles. In men, erectile dysfunction can respond well to pelvic floor muscle strengthening under the supervision of a physiotherapist.

Prostate surgery patients

Learning correct pelvic floor muscle exercises before undergoing prostate surgery can help to reduce the risk of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction following surgery.

Many men benefit from continued pelvic floor muscle training after prostate surgery to help them with urinary or sexual symptoms. The real time ultrasound is a very effective assessment and teaching tool in these circumstances.

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