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What Are You Missing Out On?

Reclaim Control And Normal Bladder Function
With Pelvic Floor Muscle Rehabilitation

Having a bladder issue is like being chained to a bathroom. The constant need to "go" affects millions of Americans, who so frequently rush to a bathroom or are so ashamed of leaking that they surrender social lives, sleeping through the night, commuting (or being able) to work, exercise, or travel. Some sufferers become homebound or dependant on assisted living or nursing home care. Urinary incontinence, urgency, frequency, retention, and related pelvic and bladder disorders should not be dismissed as an inevitable part of aging. Bladder dysfunction can happen to anyone, at any age.

But no one has to suffer.

A Solution: PFMR

OB/GYN Associates of Attleboro (OAA), one of 16 practices that make up Sturdy Memorial Associates, offers treatments for these issues such as Pelvic Floor Muscle Rehabilitation (PFMR) at its Center for Bladder & Pelvic Health.

"PFMR is often a first-line treatment because it's accomplished in a non-invasive, painless way," says Dr. Barbara Stricker, board certified obstetrician-gynecologist at OAA. "Unlike medications, which need to be taken unremittingly to suppress symptoms that return once medications are discontinued, PFMR is restorative." Plus, it doesn't come with the side effects of medications like dry mouth, dry eyes, and chronic constipation. "PFMR also treats a wide range of issues and 70-80 percent of PFMR patients experience significant improvement of symptoms."

Bladder Dysfunction

Normal bladder function depends on properly working pelvic floor muscles. When the urethral sphincter muscles located at the base of the bladder are weak, triggers such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, or exercise provoke bladder leaking or wetting. This is called stress incontinence. Urge incontinence or overactive bladder, on the other hand, happens when the bladder wall (detrusor) muscle is too active and spasms, resulting in voiding urges when little urine is in the bladder.

How PFMR Works

"Like physical therapy or muscle exercises," says Mary Ellen Doherty, Registered Nurse Practitioner at OAA who performs PFMR, "PFMR re-educates and tones the muscles in the pelvic floor, which in turn can positively affect general bladder function. The treatment process, which combines individualized at-home Kegel exercise programs with in-office treatments, takes, on average, eight to 10 weeks to complete." But symptom improvements are usually noticed after the third or fourth treatment. The weekly in-office pelvic floor stimulation treatments take about 40 minutes, and involve a sensor that emits gentle electrical pulses to relax or retrain muscles.

According to Barbara Baxter, Certified Physician Assistant at OAA who also performs PFMR, "As part of the in-office treatments, we ask patients to practice the Kegel exercises while we use sensors to test whether they can identify and contract the correct muscles, and whether the endurance and strength of those contractions are increasing. We want to ensure and measure the effectiveness of our comprehensive PFMR approach."

PFMR may also include dietary adjustments to help improve symptoms. "It's also our protocol to suggest patients who finish PFMR to return monthly, three or four times, for maintenance visits," says Baxter. "This reminds and enhances accountability for patients to continue the at-home exercises after the standard PFMR timeframe, further extending the endurance of the treatment."

Who PFMR Helps

Over 30 million Americans suffer from bladder dysfunction, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For people with these and other conditions such as fecal incontinence, interstitial cystitis, and chronic pelvic or rectal pain, PFMR can help. "Bladder dysfunction is more common in menopausal women due to hormonal changes and aging bladder muscles, and in pregnant and post-partum women because of hormonal changes and stress associated with pregnancy and childbirth," says Doherty. Men, especially those with prostate issues or prostate cancer, recovering from surgery or radiation therapy, may also experience incontinence. The same goes for patients with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, or Alzheimer's disease.

"We use PFMR to treat people within a wide age-range - from their teens and 20s to late 80s, even 90s - because bladder dysfunction has so many causes," says Baxter. So, if you liken restrooms to emergency exits, or if you are always conscious of your bladder, you are not alone. And treatment can help.

Ask About PFMR

Covered by most insurance plans, PFMR restores patients' health, confidence, and independence. For more information about bladder dysfunction and treatment options like PFMR, talk to your doctor or call the Center for Bladder & Pelvic Health at
508-222-1105.