During electric stimulation (or e-stim for short), sticky pads are stuck to the skin around the vagina or a little piece of plastic is placed into the vagina or rectum. A very small amount of electricity goes into this pad or piece of plastic and makes the muscles move and contract. These contractions are exercises for the pelvic floor muscles. With these exercises, the pelvic floor muscles can get stronger — just like an arm muscle that gets regular exercise. E-stim is usually started by a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse or physical therapist. He or she will work with you one or more times per week for several weeks. Practitioners usually incorporate biofeedback at the same time as the e-stim, but not always.
E-stim is a useful therapy or treatment for men and women who would benefit from pelvic floor exercises due to stress urinary incontinence, or as a preventative step before prostate treatment.
Electrical stimulation is especially beneficial in individuals who can’t contract their pelvic floor muscles on their own due to weak muscle control.
Individuals with very weak pelvic muscle control can still gain the benefits of pelvic floor exercises by using electric stimulation.
Many people may wish to try this therapy as it is a less-invasive treatment than surgery and less risky.
Some people may find the treatment embarrassing or too invasive. This treatment may be time-consuming and the results aren’t instant. This is a treatment that takes time to reap benefits – so be patient!
Medical Reviewer: Diana Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC
Diana Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC, is Executive Director of Grace Anatomy, Inc. She was recently awarded two National awards: the Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health Bayer Health Care 2007 Inspiration in Women’s Health Award and the National Association For Continence 2007 Continence Care Champion (CCC) award. Her current work includes research on results of pelvic floor surgery, teaching classes on incontinence and working with international surgeons on improving the outcomes for children born with birth defects of the genitourinary and GI systems.