Women with Urinary Incontinence May Get Relief from Yoga

Author: University of California - San Francisco
Published: 2014/04/28 - Updated: 2022/07/26 - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Definition - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Form of meditation and exercise could help women who suffer from urinary incontinence according to a new study from UC San Francisco. Huang and her colleagues recruited 20 women from the Bay Area who were 40 years and older and suffered from daily urinary incontinence. Half were randomly assigned to participate in a six-week yoga therapy program, and the other half were not. The women who participated in the yoga program experienced an overall 70 percent improvement - or reduction - in the frequency of their urine leakage compared to the baseline. The control group - or the group that did not start yoga therapy - only had a 13 percent improvement.

Introduction

In a study scheduled to be published on April 25, 2014 in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery, the official journal of the American Urogynecologic Society, UCSF researchers discovered that a yoga training program, designed to improve pelvic health, can help women gain more control over their urination and avoid accidental urine leakage.

Main Digest

"Yoga is often directed at mindful awareness, increasing relaxation, and relieving anxiety and stress," said first author Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. "For these reasons, yoga has been directed at a variety of other conditions - metabolic syndrome or pain syndromes - but there's also a reason to think that it could help for incontinence as well."

Huang and her colleagues recruited 20 women from the Bay Area who were 40 years and older and suffered from daily urinary incontinence. Half were randomly assigned to participate in a six-week yoga therapy program, and the other half were not. The women who participated in the yoga program experienced an overall 70 percent improvement - or reduction - in the frequency of their urine leakage compared to the baseline. The control group - or the group that did not start yoga therapy - only had a 13 percent improvement. Most of the observed improvement in incontinence was in stress incontinence, or urine leakage brought on by activities that increase abdominal pressure, such as coughing, sneezing, and bending over.

Huang and her colleagues believe that yoga can improve urinary incontinence through multiple mechanisms. Because incontinence is associated with anxiety and depression, women suffering from incontinence may benefit from yoga's emphasis on mindful meditation and relaxation. But regular practice of yoga may also help women strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the bladder and protect against incontinence.

"We thought this would be a good opportunity for women to use yoga to become more aware of and have more control over their pelvic floor muscles," Huang said.

Approximately 25 million adults in America suffer from urinary incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence. Up to 80 percent of them are women. Urinary incontinence becomes more common as women age, although many younger women also suffer.

"We specifically developed a yoga therapy program that would be safe for older women, including women with minor mobility limitations," Huang said. "So we were partially assessing the safety of this program for older women who are at highest risk for having incontinence in the first place."

Not all types of yoga may help with urinary incontinence. The yoga program used in the study was specially designed with input from yoga consultants Leslie Howard and Judith Hanson Lasater, who have experience teaching women to practice yoga in ways that will improve their pelvic health. Still, Huang and her colleagues believe that many women in the community can be taught to preserve pelvic muscle strength and prevent incontinence.

"It would be a way for women to gain more control over their pelvic floor muscles without going through traditional costly and time-intensive rehabilitation therapy," Huang said.

Men were not included in this study because urinary incontinence in men is often related to problems related to the prostate, which may be less likely to improve with yoga. Huang and her colleagues hope to eventually build on this study and double the length of the study to 12 weeks.

References and Sources:

Huang is the paper's first author. The senior author is Leslee L. Subak, MD, a UCSF's School of Medicine professor. Co-authors include Margaret A. Chesney, Ph.D., director of the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine; Hillary E. Jenny, BS, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai; and Michael Schembri, BS, of the UCSF School of Medicine.

This study was supported by a UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine Pilot Award from Mt. Zion Health Fund. Huang also is supported by a Paul Beeson Career Development Award (1K23AG038335) from the National Institute on Aging and the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR). A Medical Student Training also supports Jenny in Aging Research grant from AFAR. Subak also is supported by grant #5K24DK080775 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic biomedical, translational, and population sciences, as well as a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco.

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This peer reviewed publication titled Women with Urinary Incontinence May Get Relief from Yoga was selected for publishing by Disabled World's editors due to its relevance to the disability community. While the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity, it was originally authored by University of California - San Francisco and published 2014/04/28 (Edit Update: 2022/07/26). For further details or clarifications, you can contact University of California - San Francisco directly at ucsf.edu Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

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