To coincide with World Continence Week, a new campaign has been launched calling for greater collaboration between healthcare and fitness professionals to educate and manage problems such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapses.
The campaign – linked to the hashtag #pelvicroar - is spearheaded by 3 specialist pelvic health physiotherapists: Emma Brockwell (physiomum), Elaine Miller (Gussie Grips) and Myra Robson (Squeezy App). The trio are working with MPs, MSPs, the Department of Health, the Royal Colleges and Professional Bodies to elevate the role of pelvic floor exercises, and calling for them to be as standard as brushing teeth twice daily.
Myra Robson said: “We’re in the dark ages here, so must form a collective roar about the injustice women (and men) face to get outcomes they deserve!”
#pelvicroar aims to break taboos surrounding pelvic health issues, and signpost men and women to evidence-based information at all stages of life as part of ‘sex and relationship education’, pregnancy care (including antenatal and postnatal) menopause, prostate care and during senior years. #pelvicroar is a physiotherapy-led collaborative campaign in the UK, but aims to become the leading, global forum for all things ‘pelvic health’.
Pelvic floor issues have been prominent in the media recently, with Mumsnet’s postnatal care campaign, a Royal baby, and the mesh scandal. Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, Kate Winslet, and presenter, Holly Willoughby, have been vocal on the subject. Yet, still, many people are unaware what their pelvic floor is, namely, the hammock shaped group of muscles that support our pelvic organs and control our front and back passages.
It takes an average 6.5 years for women to go to their GP with this issue, and over 4 years for men. The 2015 NICE Guidelines recommend 12 weeks of rehabilitation as first-line treatment for women presenting with bladder weakness post-partum, yet many GPs are unaware of the guidelines.
Physiotherapy as first line treatment
As women reach the menopause, lower oestrogen levels mean there’s a natural weakening of these muscles unless they are strengthened, such as via general fitness routines. Emma Brockwell said: “Fitness trainers often lack knowledge on how to strengthen these muscles, and some encourage women to lift weights in the wrong way, or too soon after giving birth, which can weaken and damage these muscles. I regularly treat women who have early signs of prolapse or incontinence as they’ve done the wrong exercises, or are unaware of the need to wait at least 6 months after delivering their baby.”
As people age, urinary incontinence is the 2nd most common reason for admittance into a care home. Yet, physiotherapy is recognised as being front line treatment for urinary and bowel incontinence, prolapse and pelvic pain, and has an up to 90% success rate in treating stress incontinence.
However, Incontinence is still under-recognised, under diagnosed and under-funded. The total cost of incontinence to the UK is unknown, as the data has not been collected.
Australia’s equivalent costs in 2012 were $42.9billion: a lot of money is spent on a condition that is commonly manageable, if not curable, with physiotherapy, advice and lifestyle changes. Incontinence also prevents people exercising, yet it is still absent from UK obesity management guidelines. This is significant as diseases of inactivity are now responsible for more premature deaths in the UK than smoking.
Kegel8 is a British company specialising in pelvic floor health which wholeheartedly supports #pelvicroar. Stephanie Taylor, Managing Director, says, “Our team hears from thousands of women each year who are desperate for a solution to their bladder weakness or prolapse, having suffered for years in silence. Knowing that there are medically-proven, non-surgical ways to improve their situation brings them enormous comfort, and is a step on the way to rebuilding the confidence and control they have lost. It’s never too late to start building a stronger pelvic floor. A strong pelvic floor also makes for stronger orgasms, and therefore a healthier love life for both partners.”
For more information, see the infographic below: