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Life Without Limits Week - Continence Awareness

31 August 2005

Life Without Limits Week - Continence Awareness

4 ~ 10 September

Latest research - a ground-breaking study - shows that up to 84% of women with stress urinary incontinence can be dry with continence physiotherapy.

This multi-centre, national physiotherapy study has shown cure rates equal to surgery for women with for stress urinary incontinence.

The results of the research, published this year in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed that continence physiotherapy in Australia was an effective and risk-free treatment which should be recommended as first-line approach for women with stress urinary incontinence, before consideration of surgery.

Women with stress urinary incontinence typically leak urine when coughing, sneezing or during physical activities. This can have an emotional impact on women and their relationships. It can also result in avoidance of physical activity and this can have serious health consequences.

Stress urinary incontinence has been traditionally treated surgically but increasingly evidence suggested that non-surgical treatments, in particular physiotherapy, were a good option. This new study found that not only were the outcomes very good - 64% of women who started out in the project were dry at the end of treatment - but, very importantly, there were significant improvements in the quality of life for the women participating. Another important finding was that none of the women reported adverse effects from physiotherapy.

A year later, all of those who had finished treatment were followed up: 78% of those who responded to the questionnaire were still satisfied or very satisfied with the outcome and 85% did not want any further treatment.

Further results of this study, about to be published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, showed that continence physiotherapy was not only effective, but it was also a low cost option (around $300 for a course of treatment – free in NZ) when compared with surgery which was estimated at over $6,000.

This multi-centre study is the most comprehensive investigation of physiotherapy for stress urinary incontinence undertaken in Australia. It involved 39 physiotherapists with special training in continence management, across Australia and investigated the outcomes of 274 women with stress incontinence. Results for NZ would be very similar.

The project also informed researchers about many aspects of clinical practice - costs, typical number of treatments and the types of treatment used. Treatment typically involved an individualised pelvic floor muscle training program but some women needed further help to train the pelvic floor muscles with biofeedback or electrical stimulation. Every woman was checked to ensure that she was contracting her pelvic floor muscles correctly because incorrect muscle action can potentially be harmful. An average of five treatment sessions was needed for a successful outcome.

The NZ Continence Association's CEO, Jan Zander, hails the ground-breaking study. "It highlights that there are now many options for treatment, improvement and cure for incontinence. There's no better time for women to talk to a continence health professional about their weak bladder or bowel.

"Bladder or bowel problem? Don't let it hold you back!"


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