Fiona Harris’s life was, like that of so many women, blighted by incontinence. The office manager, from Lincoln, wore pads that needed changing eight times. Her love life with husband Cliff, 57, virtually disappeared as a result of condition, but just three hours in a chair that exercises the pelvic floor has changed her life
‘It made sense that it could work on the pelvic muscles, too.’ A large magnetic coil in the chair’s base creates an electromagnetic field just above the seat. ‘When you sit on the chair, signals from the electromagnetic field induce an electric current in the tissue around the pelvic floor, causing it to contract — at a rate, say the makers, of 11,200 times in 28 minutes.
Dr Sims says the chair helped her and she now offers the treatment at her private clinic in Liverpool.The women she treats are also shown how to do their Kegel exercises at home, to keep their pelvic floor strong long after the treatment finishes.
‘Like any muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it,’ says Dr Sims.
Fiona says the results have been life-changing. After just a ten-minute trial she was completely dry for a day. She then began a £1,500 course of six half-hour sessions in September at Body Lipo in Lincoln. She had two sessions a week for three weeks.
‘You just sit there, fully clothed,’ she says. ‘It’s totally painless. All you feel is a slight pulsating in your internal muscles.
‘It took until treatment five before I had the confidence to stop wearing the incontinence pads and pants. Until then I just didn’t dare to believe it had actually worked.’
Dr Alex Bader, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Bader Medical Institute in London, who specialises in incontinence and pelvic floor problems, says that the chair treatment is an exciting option. ‘For a long time all we could do was tell women to do Kegel exercises and explain how to live with it.
‘Or, for the worst cases, we could offer a surgical procedure.’
But as Good Health has highlighted, the use of vaginal mesh to treat the problem has left some women in crippling pain. More recently doctors have used lasers and thermal heat inside the vaginal canal to improve tissue and blood supply around the urethra (the tube which takes urine from the bladder out of the body), increasing the support around it to help with control.
‘The chair technology is not new for strengthening muscles but it is a very exciting development,’ says Dr Bader.
‘Even then we must recognise it will not be for everyone. It seems to be best suited to mild to moderate sufferers.’
Elaine Miller, a women’s health physiotherapist, adds: ‘I can see the chair being helpful to women who have absolutely no feeling of their pelvic floor at all. If it gets it moving again then it’s useful.
‘But for many women it’s not that severe and there’s no evidence to suggest anything is more effective than the Kegel exercises they could do themselves.
‘It seems a pricey quick fix for something many women can improve with the recommended “contract, hold for ten seconds, release and then ten quick contractions and releases”, three times a day.’
She also advises women having problems to see their GP first and ask for an internal assessment or scan.
‘Sometimes incontinence is not a case of the muscle being too weak but of it being in spasm. If that’s the issue you wouldn’t want this kind of treatment.’
Fiona, however, is delighted with her results. Just a few weeks after her first treatment, Cliff woke her and asked if she’d realised she’d cuddled him all night — something she hadn’t done for months. She continues to do Kegel exercises and accepts that because of her fibromyalgia, she may need more treatments on the EMSella chair in future. But for now she is busy enjoying life. ‘I feel sexy again,’ she said. ‘I’ve got my life back.’