No one wants to deal with urinary incontinence (UI), or involuntary loss of urine. Unfortunately, an estimated 25-45% of women will experience UI at some point during their lives. As if that were not bad enough, it has been hypothesized that women who experience UI are at risk of developing uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs). I am sure you would agree that this is a rather unwanted two for one deal. The reason for this is that dysfunctional voiding can disrupt the normal flow of urine through the urethra, which can result in bacteria travelling back to the bladder and creating infection.
Past research has focused on and proven that pelvic floor physical therapy can help reduce UI symptoms…but does pelvic floor PT help with UTI prevention?
I am not the only one who has pondered this question. Lucky for us, Dr. Kate Divine and Dr. Lisa McVey have asked themselves the same question and kindly performed research to help answer it. They conducted a single-subject case study with a 50-year-old schoolteacher who presented with a ten-year history of UI, UTIs, urinary urgency/frequency, and pelvic pain. Her conservative pelvic floor physical therapy treatment plan included bladder retraining, biofeedback, electrical stimulation, patient education, and exercises. After six sessions, the patient had achieved all her goals. When the researchers checked in with her three months later, she had not experienced any UTIs (compared to pre-treatment, when she typically experienced them every 1-2 months) or UI symptoms.
Obviously, additional research is warranted to explore if the same results occur across the board, because a sample size of one is rather small. It would also be interesting to see if the positive results continue beyond three months. But this is a huge first step. The research is extremely promising, especially because resistance to UTI antibiotics is on the rise. The fact that physical therapy, a conservative and non-pharmacologic approach, may be of help further reinforces my strong belief in “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.”
If you are someone you know stands to benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy to address either UI or recurrent UTIs, please contact us! It would be an honor to serve as your healing agents.
Divine, Kate PT, DPT, WCS; McVey, Lisa PT, DPT Physical Therapy Management in Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections: A Case Report, Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy: January/March 2021 – Volume 45 – Issue 1 – p 27-33 doi: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000189