Everybody’s looking at my tight pants…
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Electric pants won’t fix urinary incontinence, OR do your Kegels for you. Neither will a fancy chair or a cool app on your phone. I must be reaching the age that these ads are starting to creep into my Instagram feed and I even got one by snail mail. EEK!
The ads are correct: leaking isn’t normal, and we shouldn’t accept it as a just part of the aging process. But, however cool and easy they are purported to be, these gadgets don’t and won’t work.
Here’s the deal. The pelvic floor muscles—the ones these gadgets are targeting—don’t work in isolation. In fact, they are a piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to bladder control. Let’s look at the muscular part of this puzzle here.
- Pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are the gatekeepers and help to lift the bladder neck and close the urethra. But if the pressure from above is too much, no amount of pelvic floor activation is going to keep a leak from happening.
- Deep abdominal wall muscles, particularly the transverse abdominus. These muscles work in conjunction with the pelvic floor muscles. The abdominal wall muscles assist the pelvic floor in lifting the bladder up and stabilizing the pelvis and trunk.
- Deep back muscles, namely the multifidus. These are the small muscles that run from vertebrae to vertebrae in our spine and give us stability with standing, lifting, bending, and rotation. The abdominal wall and pelvic floor muscles work as a team with these little guys for trunk stability and control. Without them, our pelvic floor muscles are working double time to stop a leak and give stability.
- Diaphragm. This is a heavy worker. The diaphragm works with the first three groups to modulate the pressure in the abdomen. If the pressure gets too high, it is hard for our pelvic floor muscles to overcome the pressure and prevent a leak.
- Hip muscles—these include the groin (adductors), gluteal (buttocks), deep hip rotators. They again work to help stabilize the pelvis to give our pelvic floor muscle support and prevent leaks.
Looking at this list of puzzle pieces (and these are just the muscular part!), it becomes easier to understand how a pair of electric pants aren’t going to fix the problem. Urinary leaking can have many factors—muscles, skin, hormones, fascial support, nerves. There isn’t a one size fix all. Pelvic floor therapists specialize in looking at all of the pieces of your puzzle and help to find the missing piece to improve your bladder control.
Often, women are leaking because they have OVERACTIVE pelvic musculature. Yes, too much activity of those muscles can cause leaking too. And guess what electrical stim for 30 minutes a day will do to already overactive muscles???? Make them more tense, often cause pain and MORE dysfunction. If there was a quick fix, easy button, wouldn’t we all stop leaking with exercise, urgency and cough/sneeze? It takes work and a little help from experts in the field.
If you are experiencing leaking of urine, the gold standard is to seek help from a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as medical screening by a physician or NP/PA who are trained in the field. Physical Therapy will address your musculoskeletal and nervous system issues from head to toe, restoring function for the long term and educating you about how to maintain this. We offer a free, 15 minute phone consultation to answer any questions you may have to make sure you are in the right place to begin healing.