Urinary incontinence is a significant health issue that has physical and social implications for around 3.8 million men and women in Australia. Referring to accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder, the prevalence of Urinary Incontinence (UI) increases with age in both genders.
While there is increasing awareness that women experience UI, particularly after pregnancy and childbirth, the subject of male urinary incontinence is one that is not widely discussed. This is despite the fact that around 13 per cent of men experience this condition.
Shan Morrison, a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and Director of Women’s and Men’s Health Physiotherapy in Melbourne, says that male bladder problems are often related to prostate surgery or enlargement. However, an important part of bladder control is the pelvic floor muscles. “We know that women have them, but men do too. Pelvic floor problems occur when these muscles are stretched, weakened or too tight,” she says.
Some exercises place more stress on the pelvic floor, but there are always ways to modify exercises to make them more suited to clients with this issue.
Generally anything that is high impact, such as running, jumping, star jumps or skipping all increase the likelihood of ‘leakage’ in men with an existing problem, so it’s important to avoid them to avoid potential embarrassment. Pelvic Floor First (PFF) — an initiative of the Continence Foundation of Australia (CFA), PFF is a program that provides education to consumers, health professionals and fitness professionals on how to address pelvic floor dysfunction.
As embarrassing as some men may believe it to be, Morrison says trainers should urge male clients who they suspect are experiencing bladder control problems to speak to their doctor, as urinary incontinence is a treatable problem. “There is no need to suffer in silence,” she says. A 2011 Australian study showed that urinary incontinence has a negative impact upon mental health, with individuals with the condition reporting higher rates of depression than their continent counterparts. Those with incontinence issues were also found to be unhealthier, and reported that it interfered with their everyday activities.
While discussing incontinence can be difficult, all trainers must make an effort to find out as much information as possible about their clients, and reassure them any information they have shared is strictly confidential. While the Adult Pre-Exercise Screening System does not include questions relating specifically to bladder and bowel problems, the topic should be raised in a comprehensive pre-screening interview; particularly if a client answers yes to having other medical conditions. Exercise professionals can play a key role in raising much-needed awareness of incontinence and pelvic floor muscle problems.
Click here to read the full article in the Spring eJournal POWERED.