In response to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that pelvic-floor disorders, such as urinary incontinence, affect up to one-quarter of American women, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Alexandria, Va is urging women who suffer from the widespread disorder to consider examination and treatment from a PT.

Recent research has demonstrated physical therapy’s effectiveness at treating the symptoms of urinary incontinence. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (March 18, 2008) reports that pelvic-floor muscle training, in conjunction with bladder training, resolved the symptoms of urinary incontinence in women. According to APTA, proper preventive measures and examination and treatment by a PT can help patients manage, if not alleviate, the often-debilitating condition.

The study, which included 96 randomized controlled trials and three systematic reviews from 1990 through 2007, concluded that pelvic floor muscles training and bladder training resolved urinary incontinence in women, as compared to drug therapy, electrostimulation, medical devices, injectable bulking agents, and local estrogen therapy.

More than 25 million Americans have urinary incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence, and the experience can leave them feeling ashamed, socially isolated, and depressed. The condition affects men and women alike, young and old.

Patricia J. Jenkyns, a PT at the Department of Rehabilitation Services at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says PTs are crucial in treating urinary incontinence because of their role in both assessing and treating musculoskeletal conditions. "Patients often think that because of age or medical history, incontinence is something they have to learn to live with, but in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth," she says. "Health care professionals need to be aware of the role that PTs play in treating incontinence so that their patients know about alternatives to diapers, medication, or surgery."

Since 2006, the APTA Section on Women’s Health has offered members a Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Physical Therapy. Known as CAPP, the program provides standardized training for the highly specialized field and currently has 400 members in the certification process.