University of Minnesota researchers have found that pelvic floor muscle training, also known as Kegel exercises, are the most effective way to address urinary incontinence in women.
Researchers based their findings on a review of nearly 100 randomized, controlled trials published from 1990 to 2007.
The author of the review, Dr. Robert Kane, said Kegel exercises were two to three times more effective than most drugs or devices used to treat incontinence.
"In our sort of modern society we've been looking for other kinds of approaches, either surgery or pills that might basically be easier to do. But it turns out that the exercises, of all the things we looked at, were the most effective," said Dr. Kane.
Kane said Kegel exercises appear effective across all age ranges, regardless of whether women develop incontinence while pregnant or when they get older.
He said the only drawback to the exercises is that they typically need to be performed for several months.
"The good news is it's fairly cheap to do. The bad news is you have to do it and keep doing it," Kane explained. "And you probably need to do these exercises for several months in order to be effective. And then you may have to do them again from time to time."
The review also found that while a couple of drug treatments for incontinence are effective, others have no effect, or in some cases make the condition worse.
The findings are published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine. They will also appear in next week's print edition of the journal.