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Why Can Incontinence Cause Falls?

Hi friends! Do you or someone you know always rush to the bathroom? Did you know 1 in 4 women live with urinary incontinence? (Fisher, 2019) Did you know that urinary urgency and incontinence puts you at a higher risk for falls and fractures (like a broken hip) as you age? (Fisher, 2019). September is Falls Prevention Awareness Month , so this week we are going to talk about how incontinence and falls are related, and what we can do about both!


Why Are Falls Common in Individuals with Incontinence?

There are many reasons that falls happen more often for those dealing with incontinence. Some individuals fall because they are rushing to the bathroom to avoid leakage. They may lose their balance or trip over objects.


Urinary incontinence is also associated with needing to get up in the night to pee (Fisher, 2019). Many times, individuals may fall in the night due to poor lighting, tiredness, or improper footwear like slippers or socks.


With incontinence, some individuals are afraid to go too far from a bathroom. This can reduce the amount of mobility, exercise, and out-of-home activities. The decrease in activity can lead to muscle weakness and frailty—increasing the risk of falling (Fisher, 2019).


Why Is Fall Prevention Important?

1 in 3 individuals over 65 falls at least once per year (Nelson, 2015). Falls are the leading cause of injury, death, and traumatic hospital admissions in older adults costing over $2 billion in the United States alone (Nelson, 2019). Falls can impact mobility, quality of life, and overall well-being. As they say, prevention is the best medicine!


How Do We Treat Falls and Incontinence?

There’s good news! One study found improving urinary incontinence significantly improved fear of falling (Fisher, 2019). Reducing the fear of falling has been shown to reduce the actual risk of falls. Improving incontinence can decrease the risk of falls!


A physical therapist that specialized in pelvic health can treat incontinence to help keep you dry (and not rushing to the bathroom!). The treatment for incontinence depends on if you have stress incontinence or urge incontinence. You may also have mixed incontinence which is a combination of the both. Mixed urinary incontinence is most common form of incontinence in older women (Fisher, 2019).



The first-line recommended treatment for stress incontinence is pelvic floor muscle training with a pelvic floor physical therapist. You can download our pelvic floor muscle training tracker below.

PFMT Tracker
.pdf
Download PDF • 76KB

Treatment for urge incontinence often includes bladder training, bladder control strategies, pelvic floor muscle training, urge suppression techniques, and fluid management. Your physical therapist should come up with a treatment plan that is designed to address your specific needs.


In the video below, Jeanice will help teach you how to train your pelvic floor muscles to pee when and where you choose!


A physical therapist is also specially trained to help improve overall strength and balance to prevent falls. You can ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a pelvic therapist, or find a pelvic therapist on your own at myPFM.com. We have links to 4 free searchable databases under Find a PT.


Here are some great resources to help you learn more about urinary incontinence:


For providers, check our online courses to help your clients with incontinence. Consider joining our Ambassador Program and most of our courses are included with your membership!


Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT


References

1. Fisher S et al. Fall risk reduction in the elderly through physical therapy management of incontinence. J Womens Phys Therap. 2019;43(1):3-9.

2. Nelson PR, Irish KR, Cleary KK. A preliminary study on balance performance and fall status in older women with urinary incontinence. J Womens Phys Therap. 2015;39(3):102-108.

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