It doesn’t have to be this way

Australian Physiotherapy Association pelvic-health physiotherapist Dr Irmina Nahon wants to reassure incontinence sufferers that help is available, and for them not to be resigned to the condition.

Incontinence is one of the most common health conditions affecting Australians, with about six million people in this country experiencing the condition during their lifetime.

Pregnancy and childbirth are the most common causes of incontinence in women, while for men it often occurs as a result of prostate surgery and associated radiation therapy. Other causes include stroke and other neurological conditions, diabetes and other endocrine diseases, menopause, pelvic surgery and general ageing.

“Incontinence has a significant effect on quality of life, and has both psychological and financial impacts,” said Dr Nahorn, who is Assistant Professor in Physiotherapy and Clinical Education Coordinator at the University of Canberra. “It doesn’t have to be endured as a result of ageing or childbirth, which many people assume and, therefore, don’t talk about openly or seek treatment for.

“Less than one third of people who suffer from incontinence seek appropriate treatment, yet the recovery rate if treated properly is very high.

“Specialist physios trained in pelvic-health management will do a thorough assessment, discuss bladder and bowel habits and techniques and then prescribe a muscle strengthening program to support stronger pelvic floor muscles.”

The International Consultation on Incontinence 2017 recommended pelvic floor physiotherapy as first-line therapy due to the strength of evidence.

Dr Nahon says that for Australians living in rural and remote regions, access to specialist physiotherapist support for incontinence management can be very difficult. In these instances, she recommends telehealth consultations as a good option for support and management of symptoms. She says these allow physios effectively to review patient progress, prescribe pelvic-floor muscle-training programs and provide motivation to continue .

“For these patients, telehealth consultations can be the crucial support they need to maintain their programs and allow full recovery,” she said.

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