Is Leaking Normal?

Urinary incontinence affects over 25 million Americans annually and is twice as common in women as in men. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause can be contributing factors to urinary incontinence, but anyone can experience incontinence. It can affect a spectrum of ages from childhood to the elderly and can even be an issue in athletes. Is leaking normal? Read on to find out.

What is Urinary Incontinence? 

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. It may be a few drops or it may be a more complete flow or full loss of urine. Either way, this can be incredibly disruptive to your life. 

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is a strong desire to urinate leading to a loss of urine before you make it to the bathroom. A common way we’ll identify this incontinence is by asking “Do you leak urine on the way to the toilet or if you have a strong urge to go?” Oftentimes this strong urge can be associated with a trigger like “key in the door”, running water, or even the act of walking to the bathroom. 

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs with physical exertion activities. The most common examples of stress incontinence are leaking with sneezing, coughing, or laughing. It can also occur during daily activities that increase pressure on the abdomen or pelvic floor such as walking, running, stairs, or lifting objects. 


Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence is a combination of both urge and stress incontinence. This would mean you’re experiencing leakage with a strong urge and with physical exertion activities. 

Where does the pelvic floor come in? 

The pelvic floor muscles have a lot of responsibilities! These muscles help us maintain continence by providing feedback to the bladder. They also need to be “on” at a low level throughout the day to support our pelvic organs and stabilize our pelvis. If they are tight and/or weak they will not be able to do these jobs correctly.

So does my pelvic floor need to be stronger? 

Maybe! But! The pelvic floor can be dysfunctional for several reasons. It could be that the pelvic floor muscles are tight and overactive. If they are overactive, they will not have the ability to contract more when faced with a bigger load (like a full bladder or a sneeze). Because of this, these muscles need to have flexibility, length, AND strength. We may have to work on lengthening the muscles first before strengthening.


Pelvic floor therapy

Urinary incontinence is one of the most common reasons individuals seek out pelvic floor physical therapy. Luckily there are many effective ways to resolve this issue. Pelvic floor therapists employ bladder control strategies and urge suppression techniques to decrease the urgency sensation of the bladder. We provide extensive pelvic floor muscle retraining and manual skills to address issues of overactivity and weakness. During your time with us, we will also discuss information regarding healthy bladder habits including fluid management and potential bladder irritants. It will also be helpful to create a graded home exercise program with functional movements for pelvic floor training with your current activities. 

Our pelvic health therapists are looking forward to helping you regain your independence and freedom!

Caroline is a skilled orthopedic therapist specializing in treating the pelvic floor and many other conditions.