Electrical stimulation for urinary incontinence is often the most helpful treatment for people with stress incontinence. This method benefits those whose pelvic floor muscles are too weak or damaged to contract.
It can also be very effective for some people dealing with urge and mixed incontinence. Electrical stimulation for urinary incontinence is often referred to as pelvic floor muscle electrical stimulation (PFES) or functional electrical stimulation.
What Electrical Stimulation Is Used for
Electrical stimulation can relieve:
Mixed stress and urge incontinence
Pelvic Floor Muscles
The pelvic floor consists of muscle fibers and connective tissues that support essential organs in the pelvis, such as the bladder, bowel (large intestine), and internal reproductive organs. The pelvic floor muscles provide flexibility, holding these organs in place and assisting with bodily functions like sex and the release of urine and stool.
Pelvic floor muscles and the core allow your body to absorb outside pressure, which helps protect your spine and organs. These muscles simultaneously help with the control of your bowel and bladder functions.
What They Do
Pelvic floor muscles hold and protect the major organs located in your pelvis. They provide muscle control through contractions, which help remove waste from your body. These same muscles are responsible for blocking the narrow passages so that waste cannot escape. When squeezed, the passages found in the urethra and anus can stop the waste flow and release it when relaxed.
Strong, undamaged pelvic floor muscles allow you to squeeze and relax automatically. However, when weakened, they may not respond as quickly — or at all.
How Electrical Stimulation Works
Electrical stimulation can be performed at home through a vaginal or anal electrode device. The length of therapy will vary depending on the severity of symptoms and the response to treatment.
The therapy works by sending mild electric currents to the pelvic floor muscles, or to the nerves that supply these muscles. The current causes the muscles to contract frequently, similar to Kegel exercises, strengthening the muscles..
How Well It Works
Research shows that vaginal or anal electrical stimulation can help reduce how often women have incontinence. Urinary incontinence primarily affects women who are either pregnant, postpartum, or menopausal.
Other Treatments For Strengthening The Pelvic Floor Muscles
Pelvic floor muscle exercises (also known as Kegels) are the first step in strengthening your pelvic floor. By contracting the pelvic floor muscles, holding them tightly for three to five seconds, and then releasing them, you can strengthen them over time.
If you’re looking to take Kegels to the next level, a pelvic floor trainer can take you there. These devices are inserted into the vagina or anus. You then apply the same methods as you would with regular Kegel exercises. The pelvic floor trainer will help you with proper form and accelerate the muscle-strengthening process.