Treating Incontinence With Electric Stimulation

by Tasha Mulligan Health Professional

You can view electric stimulation (e-stim) much the same as charging a car battery or priming a motor before it will start. Providing e-stim to the neuromuscular receptors within your pelvic floor muscles can help to re-open communication between those nerves and muscles that are no longer working together.

You see, the human body needs to move. It needs to be used or we see muscle tissue waste away, nerve communication slow down, and bone demineralize. As we age this becomes more of a challenge because we tend to move less throughout our day and the movement we do make is more repetitive and controlled.

All of these factors lead to a gradual weakness of the muscles we don't use as often and slower neuromusclular communication between those muscles we seldom use and the nerves that signal them to fire.

This phenomenon of nerves no longer communicating with the muscles they connect to can be seen as the result of various diseases and muscle or nerve injury from pelvic/abdominal surgery, pregnancy and delivery, chronic strain of the muscle fibers, or disuse secondary to poor mobility or poor posture.

E-stim is a treatment option to get you started on the road to recovery of voluntary control of your pelvic floor muscles again. The artificial stimulation of the nerves connecting to the many muscles of your pelvic floor can work like adding oil to a motor. It creates nerve impulses along neural lines that may have been inactive for months or years.

E-stim that is applied to the trigger point of a muscle can create a muscle contraction. A women's health physical therapist has specific knowledge of these trigger points and can use an e-stim probe to fire all the different muscles of the pelvic floor. You can find a complete list of women's health physical therapists in your area under "Find a PT" at the American Physical Therapy Association website.

It's important to note that e-stim will not work as a treatment by itself. You must take the next step where you are voluntarily contracting your pelvic floor muscles along with the e-stim. Although the artificial stimulation of the neural pathways helps to open up the lines of communication, this won't translate into strength or endurance gains within the muscle fibers until you voluntarily contract your pelvic floor muscles along with the e-stim. The final step, completing the rehabilitation of your pelvic floor muscles is to work voluntary contractions of your pelvic floor muscles, without assistance of the e-stim. Learning how to voluntarily contract your pelvic floor muscles as a precursor to every cough, sneeze, lift, or reach is the final step to controlling your continence.

Contact a women's health physical therapist in your area today to ensure your pelvic floor muscles are all firing. Use of e-stim should be continued until you have demonstrated the ability to voluntarily contract all the muscles of your pelvic floor.

Tasha Mulligan
Meet Our Writer
Tasha Mulligan

Tasha wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Incontinence.