Is This Normal? Common Signs Of Stress Incontinence
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Is This Normal? Common Signs Of Stress Incontinence

Urinary Stress

The other day I was working with a patient who was suffering with pelvic floor issues, and I asked if she experienced any urinary leakage.

She confidently responded “No”, then a few seconds later quickly followed up with, “well, except when I cough or sneeze, but that’s normal right?”

My response?

It is common, but it is not normal to leak urine.

I want to bring attention to some COMMON issues which I feel are often brushed off as being normal by patients (or even other medical providers you may have worked with in the past) and they all suggest a condition called stress urinary incontinence.

Here are some COMMON signs of stress incontinence I hear on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis:

  • “I can’t jump with my kids at the trampoline park without peeing my pants, but they were big babies!”
  • “When I run, I leak, but I’ve also had 3 kids.”
  • “My babies were huge, they stretched me out so much I have no more abs. I can’t work out like I used to, and I think it’s making my back hurt.”
  • “I sometimes don’t make it to the bathroom in time but I’m getting older so that’s normal, right?”
  • “Sex hurts sometimes so we just don’t do it as often. They said I tore with my last baby, so I guess that’s just what I have to live with.”
  • “I had to stop some of the classes I did at the gym because it was pulling on my c-section scar and felt weird. My c-section was 5 years ago so I guess I’ve just gotten used to modifying, I miss burpees though!”
  • “It really hurts rolling in bed and getting dressed in the morning, but my doctor just said that I’m 32 weeks pregnant, and at least I only have another 1-2 months to go.”
  • “I hate going to the GYN- PAP smears are the worst! They hurt so bad!”
  • “I never use tampons- they hurt too much trying to get them in. I really hope I’m not on my period for my friend’s birthday beach trip or I’ll have to cancel again this year.”

No, no, no, no and NO to all of this!

Yes, pregnancy, childbirth, and surgery DO change your body, but if these changes are limiting your FUNCTION and not allowing you to do what you WANT or NEED to do, then we need to do something about it!

Let us get rid of this stigma that “because life happens, that this is just par for the course.”

Do you know what that phrase, “par for the course” means?

It means that we are not pleased with the outcome, but we expected it to happen. Let us think about that.

In all other areas of our lives, if we are not satisfied, we make the changes necessary to improve our situation.

Why do we settle when it comes to our bodies, and accept urine leaking as part of our life?

Let us stop being okay with something that is unpleasant just because we expected it or because it happens to other people.

Now, let us look as some of these “common but not normal” situations that I find people, and especially mother’s, “just live with”.

Probably the most common one I hear about is stress urinary incontinence.

What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?

This is a type of urinary incontinence when you leak urine when there is stress, or an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, on the bladder.

Urine leakage can occur with laughing, jumping, coughing, sneezing, running, lifting, or even blowing your nose.

I remember being in one of those boardwalk gift shops and seeing a decorative sign that read “I laughed so hard tears ran down my legs!” A group of older women were laughing about it and trying to decide which friend to give it to.

I’ll admit, my initial reaction was to laugh too…but then I became bothered that this issue, which can be hugely embarrassing and self-limiting, has become a joke.

Did you know that bowel and urinary incontinence is one of the leading reasons why older adults are placed in nursing homes? It is never normal to leak.

If you are experiencing this, you should see a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation.

Your therapist will be able to assess your strength, coordination, and how you are managing pressure and develop a program to improve (and hopefully get rid of) the leakage!

"What about not making it to the restroom in time?"

This is called urge urinary incontinence.

You get the urge to go, but you may leak urine on the way or just plain do not make it!

This can be extremely self-limiting - I have had patients not want to leave their house out of fear of an embarrassing episode in pubic!

I think we all have felt how isolating COVID can feel not being able to see loved ones when we want, imagine if you were feeling held hostage by your own body!

Your pelvic floor physical therapist can teach you strategies to manage these symptoms and get you out socializing again!

To all my pregnant women, yes, your body is changing, and yes things will feel different.

However, if you are having pain that is stopping you from doing activities that you LOVE, NEED or WANT to do, this is not something you have to live with for the rest of your pregnancy!

Is low back pain making it hard to get through a workday or play with your kids?

Do you have pain down your arm and hand that makes it hard to be productive with computer work?

Do you have pelvic pain with walking, rolling in bed, getting dressed in the morning or getting in and out of the car?

Do you have pain down your leg that makes sitting or walking uncomfortable?

Low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, symphysis pubis dysfunction, and sciatica are all conditions which are more common during pregnancy but can be addressed with physical therapy!

If surgical scars are causing discomfort, physical therapy can help as well, even if your surgery was years ago!

Pain with sex, tampon use, and pelvic exams are also not normal!

Sex should be enjoyable, and tampons should be comfortable to wear, insert and remove.

Although pelvic exams and PAP smears are not typically a super pleasant experience, they should not hurt!

There are various reasons why one might experience pelvic pain, but your pelvic floor physical therapist can be part of the team to find out the cause and get rid of the pain!

Even if you have suffered for years, it is not too late!

You do not have to “just live with it”.

Just because something is more common, does not make it normal.

Just because you expect things to be a certain way, it does not mean that this has to be end result.

Mothers especially tend to put others needs and wants before their own, but it still holds true - you cannot care for others if you do not take care of yourself.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy In Crofton

At our Crofton Physical Therapy clinic, our team is able to help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, and get back to life without pelvic pain, urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.

Founder of Breakaway Physical Therapy and Author of Mom Strong: Pregnancy And Beyond, Shaina Clemons is a mother of four, and pelvic floor physical therapy specialist in Crofton who has seen the massive changes physical therapy can have on people's lives:

"Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is proven to help people with urinary and bowel incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic pain.

If your pelvic pain or leakage is affecting your job, your ability to keep active, if it threatens your independence or gets in the way of spending quality time with family and friends – Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy can help get you back to living the life you deserve as quickly as possible!"

To find out more about pelvic floor physical therapy, we are currently offering a limited number of Free Pelvic Floor Specialist Visits where you can discover what's causing your issues, and the best treatment options available to you.

Our Crofton clinic is extremely busy which is why these visits are only available for the first 7 people to enquire - So complete our simple webform in 30 seconds, or call us on 410-774-5675 to claim your Free Pelvic Floor Specialist Visit before they go!

Alternatively, you can speak our team from the comfort of your own home by arranging a Free 15 Minute Telephone Consultation.

How Has Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy At Breakaway PT Helped People Like You?

Chelsea (late 20's from Crofton, MD):

"Every single day I was waking up with the pain. I figured the more I moved the better but the second I sat down, it was terrible and I didn't want to get on the floor and play with my daughter. It was affecting my life to a point where I couldn't stop thinking about the pain." Our team has been able to help Chelsea significantly reduce pain, and help her overcome pelvic floor issues.

Lindsay (in her 30's from Arnold, MD):

"Physical therapy has made a huge difference in a positive way. I'm now able to be intimate with my husband. I am regaining bowel control. The best thing about coming for physical therapy at breakaway is just the people here, they're so accommodating, so friendly and wonderful."

Other Helpful Tips To Improve Your Pelvic Floor

Download Our Free Pelvic Floor Report - 9 Effective Strategies To Understand And Relieve Daily Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Read Our Blog - 4 Signs Your Pelvic Floor May Not Love Your Love of Running

Read Our Blog - How Long Does It Take To Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Follow Us On Social Media - Breakaway Physical Therapy Facebook and Breakaway PT Instagram


Shaina Clemons

Shaina Clemons

Shaina is the founder and owner of Breakaway Physical Therapy.  She received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from the University of Maryland Baltimore, along with a Bachelor's degree from Towson University.   Shaina is an Ironman triathlete, with a love of all sports. Exercise is her passion, which plays an important role in both her personal and professional life.  In her free time, Shaina enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children.  Shaina's love of snowboarding led her to her career choice many years ago. 
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