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Overactive Bladder: Management Strategies

Living with an overactive bladder (OAB) can significantly disrupt one’s quality of life. The constant urgency to urinate, frequent bathroom trips, and potential leakage can be not only physically uncomfortable but emotionally distressing. Fortunately, there’s hope for those grappling with this condition: pelvic floor physical therapy (PT) offers a non-invasive, effective approach to managing OAB symptoms and restoring bladder control. 

Overactive bladder is a condition characterized by a sudden and often uncontrollable urge to pee, often leading to frequent bathroom visits, even if the bladder isn’t full. While it can affect people of any age, it’s more common in older adults and women who’ve experienced childbirth. Various factors contribute to OAB, including weakened pelvic floor muscles, nerve damage, and certain medical conditions. 

Pelvic floor PT focuses on strengthening and coordinating the pelvic floor and surrounding muscles. Through exercises, manual therapy, and lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor PT addresses the root causes of OAB, offering relief and improving bladder control. Here’s how it can help: 

  1. Muscle Strengthening: The pelvic floor muscles play an important role with bladder control. If the muscles don’t work well together, the bladder may not be able to fully empty and you will get an urge soon after you pee. The pelvic floor also needs to be able activate to be able to calm the bladder down if you get a new urge.   Pelvic floor PT includes exercises designed to coordinate these muscles, improving their ability to support the bladder and control urinary urgency. 
  1. Bladder Retraining: Pelvic floor PT incorporates bladder retraining techniques to help individuals improve control over their bladder function. By gradually increasing the time between bathroom visits and learning techniques to suppress urges, patients can retrain their bladder to hold urine more effectively. This can include urge deferment techniques or timed voiding. 
  1. Posture and Alignment: Poor posture and alignment can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction and exacerbate OAB symptoms. Pelvic floor PT addresses these issues through posture correction exercises, recommendations for your home or workstation, and manual therapy techniques to release tension and improve pelvic alignment. 
  1. Behavioral Strategies: Lifestyle modifications, such as managing fluid intake, dietary adjustments, and bladder training techniques, are key components of pelvic floor PT. By adopting healthy habits and learning strategies to manage OAB triggers, individuals can experience significant improvements in bladder control and symptom management. 

Pelvic floor physical therapy offers a holistic approach to managing overactive bladder symptoms. By targeting the underlying causes of OAB and empowering individuals with effective techniques and strategies, pelvic floor PT can help restore bladder control, improve quality of life, and provide long-term relief from OAB symptoms. If you’re struggling with OAB, consider consulting a pelvic floor PT specialist to explore your treatment options and reclaim control over your bladder health.  We offer a free, 15 minute phone consult to answer your questions and make sure you are in the right place for healing.

Sarah is the proud co-owner of Foundational Concepts, Specialty Physical Therapy which opened in March 2013. Sarah lectures at the University of Missouri Department of PT, University of Kansas Departments of PT and Nurse Midwifery, and at Rockhurst University Department of PT. She is board certified in Women’s Health PT and holds certifications in medical therapeutic yoga, lymphedema therapy and dry needling.

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