Urinary Incontinence and Senior Falls

Most people know that falls in the elderly can lead to hip fractures and severe debilitation. What you may not be aware of is the connection between urinary incontinence and fall risk. Seniors who have urinary incontinence have been shown to have 3 times the risk of falls as compared to seniors without urinary incontinence. By treating your bladder problems, you may reduce the risk of a major, life-altering fall.

The number of emergency room visits in the U.S. each year due to falls in those 65 and older is 1.9 million. Unfortunately, 491,500 of these people become hospitalized and more than 15,000 die from injuries related to the fall. The total costs associated with falls in the U.S.is a staggering $80.9 billion including $19 billion in direct medical costs. (Statistics according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 2007). The good news is bladder problems and balance can be improved through targeted exercise.

What is the connection between urinary incontinence and senior falls? There are two possible answers. The first is that in their haste to get to the bathroom seniors trip and fall over things in their living environment. The second is linked to weakening of the muscles we use for bladder control, which are the same muscles we use to control our balance. Both of these issues can be addressed with proper intervention.

To prevent falls from tripping, keep the floors in your home environment clear of piles, furniture, throw rugs and toys. Pay attention to where your pets might be lying. Wear shoes or slippers that fit properly so they do not become a hazard. Move furniture that is in the way. Use rubber mats and well secured grab bars for bathtubs and showers. Install hand railings along stairways. Check your home environment for potential hazards and take action before an accident occurs.

How is weakness of our muscles affecting both our balance and our bladder control? The muscles involved in both balance and continence are:

1) the pelvic floor muscles,

2) the muscles that rotate our hips,

3) the deep abdominal muscles that wrap around us like a corset

4)) the multifidus, which supports our low back, and

5) the diaphragm.

These muscles are collectively called the pelvic core muscles. The pelvic core functions to support our bladder and allows us to make adjustments during walking and movement in order to maintain our balance. Research has shown that women with urinary incontinence score lower on balance testing than continent women. It has been found that women with incontinence use the pelvic core muscles in a different way. They over use the abdominal muscles, which may hinder balance response by making the body rigid.

They under use other muscles that then become weak from lack of activation. Weakness in the pelvic core has been shown to contribute to bladder leaking. It is essential to maintain the pelvic core muscles for bladder control and balance. Many studies have shown that our muscles can be retrained and strengthened at ANY age. We may not get the same bulk or quick response we did when we were younger but change is achievable!

We are able to reverse muscle weakness through exercise and proper retraining. Strengthening our pelvic core muscles will alleviating our symptoms of urinary incontinence and keep our balance at its peak. Do not allow yourself to become a victim of a major fall. You can accomplish pelvic core strengthening through self-help programs such as The Bladder Cure or by asking your doctor for a referral to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic retraining.

Karen Sebastian has a Master of Science in Physical Therapy and is the creator of The Bladder Cure DVD, a self-help program for bladder issues. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, is a Certified Pilates Instructor and a yoga practitioner of many years. Take action today! For more resources, tips and advice on incontinence and overactive bladder, visit http://www.TheBladderCure.com.

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