Fight urinary incontinence with pelvic floor exercises

Rachel Bromley Rachel Bromley Clinical specialist lead physiotherapist for women's health and continence
A strong pelvic floor can be the key to preventing, improving or curing urinary stress incontinence – as well as a range of other women’s health issues. Rachel Bromley demonstrates simple exercises you can do to help take back control of your bladder.

Urinary incontinence is very common but it should never be classed as being ‘normal’, whatever age you are.
As many as 1 in 3 women experience urinary 'stress' incontinence (USI), a type of incontinence often caused by damage to - or the weakening of - the pelvic floor. Weak pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincters simply aren’t strong enough to prevent urine from leaking when your bladder is under stress, for example – when you sneeze, cough, or exercise.

Both women and men have pelvic floor muscles and anyone can have problems. But women are especially vulnerable- particularly during pregnancy, following childbirth and after menopause.

Performing simple pelvic floor exercises, while at home or on the go, can significantly improve - and in some cases successfully treat - the condition. Here's how you can get started:

The steps

  • Start off lying down on your back or your side with your knees bent in front of you.
  • The aim is to squeeze your internal muscles as if you were trying to stop yourself from passing wind or urinating. You should feel as if you are drawing your pelvic floor up and in towards the centre of your body. Make sure you are not mistakenly clenching other muscle groups like your buttocks, or squeezing your knees together.
  • Remember to keep breathing as you squeeze your pelvic floor. Try to breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Counting out loud or humming a tune can help stop you from holding your breath.
  • Do a mix of short and long squeezes. During short squeezes, lift your pelvic floor and immediately let go. Repeat until you get tired. For long squeezes lift and hold your pelvic floor for more than a few seconds or as long as you can.
  • Aim to build up a routine of 10 slow and 10 fast squeezes three times a day.
  • Once you’ve mastered the technique, try the same exercises sitting or standing up. The aim is to be able to do the exercises during daily activities like sitting at your desk, walking or watching television.
  • We all need a little help sometimes. If you can’t master the exercises on your own or you’re not seeing the results you expected - don’t give up. A women’s health physiotherapist can help guide you on your journey to taking back control of your bladder and your life.

Sometimes solving your incontinence problems requires a little more help. Our expert Consultants can tell you more about surgical options like pelvic floor repair.

Last updated Monday 17 December 2018

First published on Friday 4 September 2015