The current issue of the The American Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences contains a paper published by The Cameron Institute and The Canadian Continence Foundation. Its conclusions are significant and, for me, prove the need for more talk, more action and less ignorance when it comes to urinary leakage. Incontinence is a rising issue, heading for epidemic proportions. Some say it’s already there.
Here are three things to come out of this study that need to be hit home:
- Urinary Incontinence is very prevalent among Canadian women
- Canadian women do not properly understand the condition and its causes
- The issue of incontinence is not seen as a significant problem, therefore many women who are in need of care do not seek it
Trying to find true statistics outlining the prevalence of incontinence among Canadians is very difficult. Depending on the study, the way questions are asked and the method of research, estimates of occurrence can range from 2 – 50% of the population. In my experience, seeing many women come through my studio doors each day, the percentage of those suffering from incontinence is higher rather than lower. For yourself, think of those you come in contact with each day. If you are not experiencing urinary leakage, I can bet that there is someone you know who is. So, let’s get this next bit out of the way right now – Urinary Incontinence may be common, but it is NOT normal. It is not normal.
With the stigma and embarrassment surrounding any issues dealing with things “down there”, it can make sense that very few people seek help for their difficulties. Add to this that we are often socialized to believe that these problems are normal aspects of aging or just something one must deal with after childbirth and we have a compounded problem on our hands. No wonder it is so difficult to truly assess the prevalence of this condition.
So, why am I here writing all of this? I’ve made it a mission to Talk Pelvis. Break barriers. Open doors and get people talking. I hope for a snowball effect. The more I talk, the more you will talk, the more others will talk and the less those suffering in silence will feel they need to hide their difficulties. Let’s bust this open together.
If you are experiencing uncontrolled urine, fecal or gas leakage, please don’t ignore it. If it is left alone, it will not likely get better. In fact, you can count on it continuing to get worse. Weakening muscles continue to weaken unless given ways to gain strength and function.
This is where your Pelvic Floor comes in. Yes – there are muscles along the bottom of your pelvis. They act like a “floor” and they hold your organs up and control whether or not urine and feces stay inside or travel outside. These muscles are like any other muscles in your body. If they are damaged, they need to be rehabilitated. If they are weak, they need to be strengthened. If they are tight, they need to be taught how to relax. The unfortunate thing is that we cannot see them, so many of us don’t even know they exist. The next unfortunate thing is that they are associated with our private parts and processes of elimination, so we are often too embarrassed to talk about them or ask questions.
The good news is that health issues surrounding the pelvic floor are often more of a “fitness” issue that can be addressed with proper pelvic floor exercise, than a true medical issue. Done at home, on a daily basis, a well-designed pelvic floor program can provide improvements in a very short time. Does this mean Kegel exercises? Actually no, it doesn’t. In my experience, the commonly prescribed Kegel movements are rarely performed properly and, in isolation, tend not to work effectively at strengthening the pelvic floor. Oftentimes women are given Kegels by their physician, but find little change in their pelvic floor function. This leads to the belief that nothing can be done, leaving many women thinking that pads and adult diapers are their only hope.
Enter Dr. Bruce Crawford, Board Certified Urogynecolgist and creator of the Pfilates™ program. Dr. Crawford decided, after performing hundreds of corrective surgeries, that it was time to take a look at pelvic floor dysfunction from a different angle. He found some fitness professionals, did some studies involving hundreds of exercises while using EMG technology to map out what the muscles of the pelvis were doing and found that – lo and behold – the pelvic floor responded well to exercise. Especially Pilates exercises. Further research ensued and the Pfilates™ (Pelvic Floor Pilates) program was born. Thank goodness.
This program contains simple, do-able, exercises designed by a physician with the idea in mind that Urinary Incontinence is most often a fitness issue. With its basis in solid EMG research and Pilates exercise, a movement method created in the 1920’s that has stood the test of time, the Pfilates™ program is bringing to the forefront the importance of pelvic floor exercise. And it makes perfect sense. If one were to damage a thigh muscle, it would be put through a rehab program to regain strength and function. If one’s arms are too weak to lift things, a strength training program is often sought out. So to approach the pelvic floor muscles in the same manner if they have been damaged due to pregnancy or childbirth or weakened due to trauma, age or lack of proper use, is not all that strange. Muscle tissue is muscle tissue. It will respond to programming that builds strength, stamina and function – even if it is located “down there”.
Tanya Rouble, B.Sc. is a Certified Pilates Instructor, Certified Pfilates™ Instructor and Owner of Pilates Essentials Plus located in Ridgeway, Ontario. Her studio offers Pfilates™ workshops, group classes and one-on-one private sessions for men and women dealing with incontinence and/or organ prolapse issues. 905.894.8444