Shown most success in clinical studies
Medical devices can be used to help build and strengthen pelvic floor muscles, treating incontinence at the source instead of just managing the result. According to the Mayo Clinic, “gentle electrical stimulation can be effective for stress incontinence and urge incontinence”.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation
The use of electrical muscle stimulation for urinary and fecal incontinence spans a 30 year period and has gained popularity as it is an effective, safe, non-invasive treatment for treating stress, urge, mixed urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence.
Electrical stimulation resolves incontinence by treating the underlying problem – it strengthens weak pelvic floor muscles and can calm an over-active detrusor muscle without the use of medications or surgery. Muscle stimulation is a first-line treatment option that should be used prior to more invasive options.
Muscle stimulation causes a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles to strengthen them (resolving stress incontinence) and can also calm an overactive detrusor muscle (resolving urge incontinence). This therapy is very valuable when a person is too weak to contract their muscles on their own and also helps you to isolate the pelvic floor muscles.
Electrical muscle stimulation can be done in your doctor or therapist’s office or in the privacy of your home with an FDA cleared, over-the-counter (no prescription necessary) muscle stimulation device.
Clinical studies have positioned two devices, both by InControl Medical out of Wisconsin, as the market leader of in-home medical devices for use to cure urinary incontinence (stress, urge, and mixed).
InTone – Doctor prescribed
ApexM – No prescription needed, can purchase online.
Sacral Nerve Stimulation
The sacral nerves control the bladder and the muscles related to urinary function. If the brain and sacral nerves don’t communicate correctly, the nerves cannot tell the bladder to function properly. This communication problem may lead to symptoms of OAB. Neuromodulation targets these symptoms by stimulating the sacral nerves.
An electronic pacemaker-like device is implanted into your buttock area and a thin wire with an electrode tip is placed near the sacral nerve to deliver electrical impulses. Sacral Nerve Stimulation is an invasive, surgical procedure. The neurostimulator typically runs for 5-10 years. However, depending on the person’s usage requirements, it could be less than 5 years. When the battery runs out, the neurostimulator will need to be replaced, typically during an another outpatient procedure.
Leading the push for Sacral Nerve Stimulation, also known as sacral neuromodulation therapy, is Medtronic out of Minnesota and their InterStim product. Read the clinical study here or learn more about Medtronic and InterStim.
Note: Sacral nerve stimulation does not treat Stress Urinary Incontinence—it does nothing to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Tibial Nerve Stimulation
Tibial nerve stimulation delivers specific electrical impulses to the tibial nerve. During treatment, a needle electrode is inserted near the ankle. The needle electrode is then connected to the battery-powered stimulator. During a 30-minute treatment, mild impulses from the stimulator travel through the needle electrode, along the leg and to the nerves in the pelvis (sacral plexus) that control bladder function.
Typically you will need 12 in-office treatments and your physician will determine the necessity of ongoing treatments thereafter. This type of therapy treats OAB only, not stress incontinence.
Note: Tibial nerve stimulation does not treat Stress Urinary Incontinence—it does nothing to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.