This image portrays Physical Therapy Can Help With What? by East Tennessee Spine and Sport.

How Urinary Incontinence Helped Me Find My Calling

As a pelvic health physical therapist assistant, I am often asked by our patients why I chose to specialize in pelvic floor physical therapy or if I personally have ever experienced any type of pelvic floor dysfunction. I suppose my mother was a great influence on this decision. See, I grew up with a mother who many would deem as an “over-sharer.” Due to her lack of inhibition blended with her passion as a labor and delivery nurse, I learned, from an early age, the details about the female body, childbirth and her issues with incontinence. As a mother of three, she often experienced urinary leakage while laughing, jumping on a trampoline, or horseback riding. Just not making it to the bathroom in time, was also a common occurrence in her life. What she had endured for so many years was mixed urinary incontinence conjoined with bladder prolapse. All those embarrassing teenage years did serve a purpose, they ultimately led me to find my calling as a pelvic health professional.

In my mid-twenties, I began to struggle with my own pelvic floor dysfunction. Like many women, I was confused and a bit embarrassed. Unlike my mother, I had not had children and I was physically fit. The only time that I experienced urinary leakage was when I was dead-lifting and squatting heavy weights, as I was a power lifter. Occasionally, there would be instances when I would completely soak myself.  Black or dark colored workout leggings became as necessary as a spotter, chalk and my belt during my workout routines. So, what did I do besides modify my workout attire? I turned to Google, of course. I discovered that I was not the only female struggling with this problem. In fact, many athletes struggle with urinary incontinence due to improper breathing techniques, straining, constant demand from high impact activities, or weak/tight pelvic floor muscles. According to the internet, the answer to my problem was as simple as performing Kegel exercises. However, not all that you read on the internet is true. I wish it had been that simple or at the very least, not so misleading. Not only can this be the wrong advice if your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, but that also most women do not perform Kegels the proper way. 

At that time, like many women, I had no idea that pelvic floor physical therapy existed. Therefore, my issue continued for years and actually worsened when I began participating in CrossFit. I have come across many CrossFit athletes who equate accidentally urinating while exercising. While indeed, they may have had great workout, and perhaps even hit a new PR, their urinary incontinence is a symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. It is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about, however, it is also not something that should not be encouraged. Using specific training techniques, pelvic floor physical therapy not only can help with urinary leakage when lifting, running, or performing double unders, but it can also positively impact an athlete’s performance by addressing muscular imbalances and by practicing proper breathing technique. 

At East Tennessee Spine and Sport, our pelvic health team is excited to be part of your journey. Whether you are an athlete, a mom, mom to be, or if you just want to be able to perform daily activities without limitations, you are in the right place. This isn’t just part of being a woman or something you must live with. Your treatment plan will be individualized based on your needs/goals and our team will be there to direct, educate and encourage you along the way. Now, it is time to ditch those dark colored leggings and start living life with confidence.