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What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence, or when you cannot control when you urinate, is caused by the muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles attach to the bottom of the pelvic bones and run front to back, forming a bowl-like shape that lifts to support your internal organs.

The pelvic floor muscles also help support your lower back, stabilize your pelvic bones, and help with sexual function.

Women are more likely than men to have urinary incontinence, but men can have it too.

Types of Incontinence

There are many different types of incontinence. Treatment will depend on which type of incontinence you have.

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is when small amounts of urine leak because your bladder has more pressure on it than normal.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is when your bladder muscle starts spasming. If the spasm is severe enough, medium to large amounts of urine may leak. Your bladder may leak occasionally or as often as every 15 to 20 minutes.

Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence is when you have both stress and urge incontinence at the same time.

Functional Incontinence

Functional incontinence is when urine leaks because you can’t get to the bathroom in time.

Treatment for Incontinence


Your physical therapist will perform an examination to see what is causing your urinary incontinence. Your therapist will also determine if you should be referred to a physician for additional tests.

Based on the results of your evaluation, your physical therapist will individualize your treatment to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve their function.

Your physical therapist can help you gain control over your symptoms. Therapy can help you avoid:

  • pads and special undergarments,
  • incontinence medications,
  • and possibly surgery.

Changing Behaviors that Irritate Your Bladder

Your physical therapist can also provide information about diet and nutrition and work with you to identify food and drinks that may irritate your bladder. In addition, your therapist can teach you how to change behaviors that make your symptoms worse, along with ways to decrease urinary urge and frequency.