Education and women's pelvic floor muscle function

What is the effect of education on pelvic floor muscle function, urinary incontinence or sexual function?

Urinary incontinence is a prevalent condition among women of all ages and has a considerably negative effect on quality of life. Despite this, most women lack knowledge regarding pelvic floor dysfunctions and treatment options. Many people who do research into clinical or educational interventions related to the pelvic floor specifically enroll women with incontinence in their studies.

However, a new study has been performed in an unselected group of women from the community, who were not required to have diagnosed incontinence to participate in the study. Why would the investigators do that?

Well, educational programs about the pelvic floor muscles can include information about pelvic floor muscle function, dysfunction and options for treatment. By drawing women in the community, such an educational program could facilitate the search for treatment, especially conservative options.

The educational intervention also included teaching of "the Knack", which is a strategy wherein women contract their pelvic floor muscles before and during activities that cause increased intra-abdominal pressure. The researchers wondered whether teaching the Knack to a general population of women from the community would improve their ability to contract their pelvic floor without further specific training of the pelvic floor muscles.

What does that mean for clinical practice?

Well there's a lot to consider. There wasn't any evidence of harm but the benefits would need to be weighed up against the cost. Education - although very effective for improving knowledge and understanding among the women - doesn't seem to be a substitute for specific pelvic floor muscle training.

Although not exclusively picked to have incontinence, many of the women did has at least some symptoms and the education didn't improve their signs and symptoms related to that. But at least they're more likely to recognise the problem, recognise that it is treatable, and seek an appropriate treatment option.

> From: Ferreira, J Physiother 64 (2018) 91-96 . All rights reserved to the Australian Physiotherapy Association. Click here for the online summary.

Want to read deeper into this topic? Have a look at the free full text version of this article published in Journal of Physiotherapy!

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