Urinary incontinence, i.e. the involuntary release of urine from the bladder, is a problem that many people suffer from. There are two main types of urinary incontinence, stress incontinence and urge incontinence. Anal incontinence, the involuntary passing of stool/wind, is rarely discussed, yet it is a widespread problem. Electrical stimulation using a vaginal/anal probe or, in some cases, surface electrodes, is a well-tolerated treatment for urge, stress, overflow and anal incontinence which has proven beneficial for improving bladder and bowel control.
Stress incontinence is the leakage of urine as a result of increased abdominal pressure on the bladder exerted by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercise or heavy lifting. It is the most common form of incontinence and occurs primarily in women when the perineal and pelvic floor muscles are weakened as a result of pregnancy, childbirth or menopause.
Urge incontinence is a sudden, strong urge to urinate followed by an immediate contraction of the bladder which leads to involuntary leakage of urine. It affects both men and women, particularly older individuals. This may be caused by a dysfunction or partial disruption in the nervous system that controls the bladder.
Overflow incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
Anal incontinence, also known as faecal or urge incontinence, is the inability to retain gases or stools. There are many causes of anal incontinence, but the most common is an injury to the ring-shaped sphincter muscle, e.g. during childbirth or surgery, or damage to the nerves that control the sphincter muscle. The condition usually deteriorates with increasing age.
In clinical studies, EMS and TENS have proven highly effective in the treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence. It works by delivering gentle electrical impulses that stimulate motor nerves in the affected muscle. This improves the ability of the pelvic floor muscles and the bladder sphincter to contract.
In the case of urge and overflow incontinence, 1/3 of affected individuals are cured, and 1/3 experience marked improvement. With stress incontinence, an improvement can be expected in half of affected individuals.