A group-based yoga program for urinary incontinence in ambulatory women: feasibility, tolerability, and change in incontinence frequency over 3 months in asingle-center randomized trial. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology Huang, A. J., Chesney, M., Lisha, N., Vittinghoff, E., Schembri, M., Pawlowsky, S., Hsu, A., Subak, L. 2019; 220 (1)


BACKGROUND: Because of the limitations of existing clinical treatments for urinary incontinence, many women with incontinence are interested in complementary strategies for managing their symptoms. Yoga has been recommended as a behavioral self-management strategy for incontinence, but evidence of its feasibility, tolerability, and efficacy is lacking.OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the feasibility and tolerability of a group-based therapeutic yoga program for ambulatory middle-aged and older women with incontinence, and to examine preliminary changes in incontinence frequency as the primary efficacy outcome after 3 months.MATERIALS AND METHODS: Ambulatory women aged 50 years or older who reported at least daily stress-, urgency-, or mixed-type incontinence, were not already engaged in yoga, and were willing to temporarily forgo clinical incontinence treatments were recruited into a randomized trial in the San Francisco Bay area. Women were randomly assigned to take part in a program of twice-weekly group classes and once-weekly home practice focused on Iyengar-based yoga techniques selected by an expert yoga panel (yoga group), or a nonspecific muscle stretching and strengthening program designed to provide a rigorous time-and-attention control (control group) for 3 months. All participants also received written, evidence-based information about behavioral incontinence self-management techniques (pelvic floor exercises, bladder training) consistent with usual first-line care. Incontinence frequency and type were assessed by validated voiding diaries. Analysis of covariance models examined within- and between-group changes in incontinence frequency as the primary efficacy outcome over 3 months.RESULTS: Of the 56 women randomized (28 to yoga, 28 to control), the mean age was 65.4 (±8.1) years (range, 55-83 years), the mean baseline incontinence frequency was 3.5 (±2.0) episodes/d, and 37 women (66%) had urgency-predominant incontinence. A total of 50 women completed their assigned 3-month intervention program (89%), including 27 in the yoga and 23 in the control group (P= .19). Of those, 24 (89%) in the yoga and 20 (87%) in the control group attended at least 80% of group classes. Over 3 months, total incontinence frequency decreased by an average of 76% from baseline in the yoga and 56% in the control group (P= .07 for between-group difference). Stress incontinence frequency also decreased by an average of 61% in the yoga group and 35% in controls (P= .045 for between-group difference), but changes in urgency incontinence frequency did not differ significantly between groups. A total of 48 nonserious adverse events were reported, including 23 in the yoga and 25 in the control group, but none were directly attributable to yoga or control program practice.CONCLUSION: Findings demonstrate the feasibility of recruiting and retaining incontinent women across the aging spectrum into a therapeutic yoga program, and provide preliminary evidence of reduction in total and stress-type incontinence frequency after 3 months of yoga practice. When taught with attention to women's clinical needs, yoga may offer a potential community-based behavioral self-management strategy for incontinence to enhance clinical treatment, although future research should assess whether yoga offers unique benefits for incontinence above and beyond other physical activity-based interventions.

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