Physiotherapy for Overactive Bladder

Could Physiotherapy Help Your OAB?

Physiotherapy for Overactive BladderPhysiotherapists use a variety of techniques to help people who have overactive bladder (OAB), teaching patients how to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles and retrain their bladders. The goals of treatment are to reduce feelings of urgency, improve continence, and boost general wellness levels.

Physiotherapy for overactive bladder may be successful when used alone or in conjunction with other OAB treatments.

Anatomy of the Pelvic Floor

Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. They may weaken as you grow older. However, pelvic floor weakness is not a normal part of the aging process. Weight gain, childbirth, and an array of health conditions may result in the weakening of your pelvic floor muscles.

One of the pelvic floor muscles is called the urinary sphincter. It is circular in shape and surrounds your urethra. Your urethra is essentially a small tube that urine flows through as it leaves your bladder when you urinate. If your urinary sphincter weakens, you may experience urinary incontinence; especially when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or lift heavy objects.

Physio can strengthen your urinary sphincter and help you to control it better. There are many other muscles in the pelvic floor which help support your bladder and other organs. A skilled therapist will help you to restore those muscles to optimal health too.

Strengthening the Pelvic Floor Muscles

Many people are not aware of their pelvic floor muscles, or they misidentify them. Exercising the correct pelvic floor muscles is essential if you want to reduce symptoms of OAB. A physiotherapist can help you to identify and exercise the correct muscles which are involved in your problem so that your treatment will be successful. With exercise, your pelvic floor muscles will gain strength, coordination, and flexibility.


You may already be familiar with the pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels. However, they are not the only pelvic floor exercises that may be helpful for you. In fact, for some people who have OAB, Kegels may be contraindicated.

If you have OAB, your pelvic floor muscles may be too tight. You are likely unaware of whether your muscles are tight or not, but a physiotherapist can determine the tone and strength of your pelvic floor muscles.

If your pelvic floor muscles are tight, a therapist can teach you how to become aware of the tightness and show you how to relax your pelvic floor muscles. This will enhance your level of comfort and reduce symptoms of OAB.

Exercising the different muscles of your pelvic floor can target specific OAB symptoms, and a physiotherapist can help you with this. For example, if you suffer primarily from urgency, a therapist may recommend different exercises than if your main issue is dribbling.

Your therapist may recommend that you use vaginal weights or other tools to perform your exercises.

Another tool a physiotherapist use to help relieve your symptoms is biofeedback training. Biofeedback may be provided by using an array of painless electronic and mechanical means. Biofeedback is useful if you have a hard time identifying your pelvic floor muscles, as it can help you to be confident that you are performing your exercises optimally.

Next page: mind-body techniques, keeping a urinary journal and choosing the right physio. 

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Patricia BratianuPatricia Bratianu

Patricia is a registered nurse with 40 years of experience. She has a PhD in natural health and is a registered herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild.

Jun 9, 2015
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