Obesity and Incontinence

Tasha Mulligan MPT Health Pro
  • There are many risk factors that increase the stress and strain on your pelvic floor muscles.  Some of these risk factors include pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, chronic poor posture, chronic cough, and more. Obesity is also on this list as one of the risk factors that increases the incidence of urine leakage.

    Being over-weight or obese requires our bodies to carry around a lot of added weight.  This added weight increases the stress and strain on the bones and ligaments of our lower bodies, just like carrying a 50 lb. back pack would affect the force of every step, every squat and every sit to stand effort we make throughout our day. More specifically, any added weight that we carry in our abdomen increased the stress and strain on our pelvic floor muscles. 

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    If we look closely at our anatomy, we can recognize the challenges our pelvic floor faces.  We can all feel our bony pelvis at the base of our abdomen. If we palpate our pubic bone, our tailbone, and our two sit bones, we have felt the major landmarks of our pelvic outlet.  This diamond shaped pelvic outlet is spanned by the muscular and connective tissue that makes up our pelvic floor. The soft tissue of our pelvic floor is literally the bottom of our pelvic bowl or basket and has the difficult responsibility of holding up our pelvic organs as well as any abdominal fat that we carry around. This is a tall task for any soft tissue, but the relatively thin pelvic floor faces the added challenge of having 3 openings (female) or 2 openings (male) that are responsible for controlling the passage of solids, liquids, and air from our bodies. All of these responsibilities are placed on a soft tissue that also has to fight against gravity as we sit and stand throughout most of our day.

    Certainly, with this visual, we can recognize that any added abdominal weight that we carry in our pelvic basket will have an effect on the function of our pelvic floor muscles.  For each added pound we hold in our abdomen, the stress and strain on our pelvic floor muscles increases. If the added weight and pressure get to be too much, it can cause our pelvic floor muscles to give way, allowing leakage of urine, feces, or gas.

    My goal in this entry is to increase your awareness of how each pound that we are overweight can have a direct effect on our pelvic floor.  More specifically, efforts to lose abdominal weight is an important part of restoring optimal pelvic floor function.

Published On: April 15, 2010