Biofeedback Therapy for Incontinence

biofeedback is a loop

Biofeedback provides you with immediate information about how well you are performing pelvic floor exercises.

Biofeedback is used to treat many conditions such as headaches, high blood pressure, and incontinence. Biofeedback helps you learn how to control certain functions in the body. You can get information from a computer that translates your body functions into pictures or numbers to help you learn to how to improve your muscle control.

How Does Biofeedback Work?

Biofeedback is done in a medical office.  A small sensor is placed in the vagina or anus. The probe senses what your pelvic floor muscles are doing and sends a signal to a computer screen. The display on the screen might be something like a colored ball. As you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, the computer shows the ball becoming bigger or smaller. By watching the display you learn how to do the pelvic floor exercises correctly. There are machines that you can use at home after you begin to learn how to do this. Some do not use computers and are not very expensive.  Many now use a phone app to help you practice your exercises.

Some electrical stimulation (e-stim) therapy for incontinence incorporates the use of biofeedback, but not always.

By using biofeedback you can learn how to do pelvic floor exercises the right way from the start. Doing these exercises will make your entire pelvic area stronger. While these exercises sound simple, but many people do not do them the right way without biofeedback or an expert (usually a physical therapist) showing them how. Biofeedback can be especially helpful for people with stress urinary incontinence.

Another benefit of using biofeedback to help with your incontinence is that you get one-on-one attention from a trained professional.  He or she can help you learn how to do the exercises correctly.  These healthcare professionals can also share ideas with you about how to cope because they work with many people with the same problem.  If you have a hard time remembering when to do your pelvic floor exercises, this training will help.  And if you are a person who learns best by seeing, biofeedback can be a big help.

Things to Consider Before Beginning Biofeedback Therapy

  • Not all insurances pay for these services, so be sure to check on your coverage.
  • Some people find the idea of inserting a probe to be too embarrassing.  So just remember that thousands of people have used this therapy and seen great improvements in their incontinence symptoms.
  • Keeping a regular schedule and doing what you are told is the only way to get better.
  • Getting better takes time and most people get better a little bit at a time.  Be patient and you will see improvements over time.

Medical Reviewer: Diana Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC

Diana Hankey-UnderwoodMs. 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.

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