There's a chair that claims to cure incontinence. But does it really work?

Like many areas of women's health, incontinence is just another thing we don't talk about. It's one of the many taboo topics that get swept under the carpet - yet an overwhelming number of women struggle with it.

A whopping 37 per cent of females suffer from urinary incontinence and bladder leakage. More than half are under the age of 50, and one in three women that have given birth will experience it.

One in three.

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They're some pretty big statistics, yet it's a severely under-managed condition.

And the fallout from this can be life-altering, causing women to make major adjustments to their everyday lives to accommodate their incontinence.

The good news is that the conversation around incontinence is growing, and there are more and more treatments now available on the market than ever before.

One of the major breakout treatments popping up everywhere right now? 

A chair that promises to fix it. 


It's called EMSELLA (or 'The Chair') and whether you have incontinence or not, you may have seen it on your social media feed or even in cosmetic clinics.

It's newly launched in Australia and is meant to treat all forms of urinary incontinence (stress, urge and mixed), light bladder leakage (LBL) or a weak pelvic floor as a result of body aging, childbirth or menopause. 

The treatment is completely non-invasive, discreet, and said to be an easy solution to what can be a debilitating problem.

So, does it actually work?

Below, we break down everything to know about EMSELLA, including other effective treatment options on the market.

So, please. Take a seat. 

What is EMSELLA?

First off, what exactly is this blue chair and what does it do?

As physiotherapist Angela James from Sydney Pelvic Clinic explains, the EMSELLA is a device that uses something called high-intensity focused electromagnetic (HIFEM) technology to stimulate pelvic floor muscles.

Sounds complex, but James breaks it down.

"'EM' stands for electromagnetic technology, and 'SELLA' is Latin for 'chair'. So, it's a chair that people sit on fully clothed and position their pelvic floor over these electromagnetic coils. When the machine is turned on, it sends electromagnetic energy into the pelvic floor muscles, which creates involuntary pelvic floor muscle contractions."


Why are pelvic floor muscles important for those suffering from incontinence?

"Pelvic floor muscles provide vital support to the bladder and other organs. When weakened over time, these muscles insufficiently support the pelvic organs, affecting bladder control."

"So, EMSELLA helps re-train and re-strengthen the entire pelvic floor area."

"Over the 28-minute session, there are about 11,000 contractions of the pelvic floor," explains James, "and the outcome is improved function in the pelvic floor muscle."

That's... a lot of contractions.

Whether that increases (female or male) sexual response, reduces urinary incontinence or just improves pelvic muscle function, depends on the patient's individual concerns.

What's involved in an EMSELLA treatment?

"One of the biggest benefits of this device is that it doesn't require your clothes off and there's nothing inside your vagina. For some women, that doesn't bother them at all, but for some other women that's a really big barrier to accessing these kind of floor therapies," James said.

"The protocol is six sessions over three weeks. The patient simply sits fully clothed in the EMSELLA chair for 28 minutes."

James describes the sensation as "an intense squeezing, contracting feeling in and around the vagina and the urethra."


Not only is it completely non-invasive, but there's also no downtime involved.

"It can be adjusted to the patient's comfort. So it's never meant to be painful and every patient is different," she said.

"Some patients are really tolerant and you can go right up to the top intensity from pretty early on and some patients stay more modified than that. So it can be tailored, but it's not meant to be painful."

Who can use it?

When it comes to suitable candidates, James said, "We see patients with a weak pelvic floor, particularly weak at the front - around the urethra and the bladder - and they might have symptoms like stress urinary incontinence."

"They might experience leaking with coughing or sneezing or they might have urged urinary incontinence, leaking getting to the toilet."

As well as patients being treated for incontinence, the device can also be used for increased sexual function.  

"Patients might also have a reduction in sexual sensation, so perhaps not orgasming strongly like they used to. So it's quite good for sexual function, and men can use it for erectile dysfunction."

Importantly, James said it's not a cure-all treatment, and there are some specific concerns that won't benefit from EMSELLA.

"It is really important to choose the patient wisely and accurately because it's not for everyone. For example, it doesn't do anything for the external anal sphincter," she said. "If you have symptoms associated with leaking from the back passage, it wouldn't offer any benefits for this particular concern."


She also adds, "Another case where it wouldn't be beneficial is if someone is really tight and experiences sexual pain from muscles not relaxing, or if they can't empty their bladder because their muscles can't relax. For this sort of patient, EMSELLA wouldn't be appropriate either." 

Does EMSELLA actually work?

When it comes to results, six sessions will usually give you optimal effects. But some people report changes after one session.

"Patients report feeling more connected, feeling a bit firmer, feeling like they can contract and connect to their pelvic floor."

"But occasionally, we'll also see the opposite. For example, some patients might say [after] they've had this huge session on their pelvic floor, they can be a little bit leaky afterwards because their muscles have fatigued. But that obviously is temporary. Muscles do recover and get stronger."

To find out more about people's experiences using EMSELLA, Mamamia spoke with Katherine, aged 34, who has three kids.

Incontinence is something Katherine tells us she's been struggling with her whole life, with pregnancy and childbirth only worsening the symptoms. 

She shared, "I’ve had some level of incontinence since I can recall - as a child I used to leak as I rushed to the toilet, but I didn’t realise this wasn't normal. During my first pregnancy, the extra load of carrying a baby really exacerbated my symptoms and on a couple of occasions, I lost control of my bladder completely, which was horrifying."


"I used to run to work, and on one occasion, I lost control of my bladder en route to work. I did some pelvic floor physio at that time, and significantly reduced the amount I leaked until the point I would only leak small amounts and every so often."

"I’ve had two more babies since then, and have been working on my pelvic floor strength on and off throughout that time, but have always had a lot of difficulties activating it and holding it on."

"I have what is known as “urge urinary incontinence” so I tend not to leak with running or jumping, but when I get a sudden urge to pass urine and rush to the toilet."

Before using EMSELLA, Katherine said she was still leaking small amounts every so often.

"I’ve had a very positive experience with EMSELLA. It's a very strange feeling and initially takes some getting used to. It feels a little bit like strong pins and needles or tapping at your perineum. As you get used to the sensation you can begin to dial up the intensity."

"For your first session, a physio will seat you and make sure the seat height and position are right, so that you are getting maximum effect at your pelvic floor," she said. "The cubicle is curtained, so you're sitting in privacy, and you can’t use a device while on the chair so it's some good screen-free time!"


For Katherine, the treatment has been life-altering. After trying other pelvic floor training strategies over the years, she said this is the first treatment where she's seen results. 

She said, "It definitely worked for me. Following my sessions, I became fully continent - no leaking for the first time in my life! I was able to control my bladder as I walked to the toilet and didn’t have to stress about leaking as I unbuttoned my pants."

As James goes on to say, it's important to know that EMSELLA is not the only thing you can do for incontinence. She said there are a host of other treatment options and strategies out there, often used in combination for optimal results.

"We would never use it just in isolation. We would use it as a kickstart to a pelvic floor program and then some sort of ongoing pelvic floor exercises that the person can do themselves," said James.

"It's not a standalone treatment - it's used in combination with a program that's really targeted to the patient, their personal preferences and what their level of function is."

What other treatment options are available for incontinence?

As well as various lifestyle interventions, such as avoiding irritants and treating urinary tract infections, physical and behavioural therapies are key when it comes to effectively managing incontinence.

This includes things like pelvic floor muscle training or Kegel exercises or muscle/bladder training with a physiotherapist (who specialises in pelvic floor muscle training)."


Because your pelvic floor muscles are way more important than you might think.

"Many people have an understanding of Kegels, but a lot of people don't do it correctly - so they either don't have the right contraction or they don't have the right program to actually get a result," said James. "So the poor old pelvic floor exercises often feel like they're not effective but they're often not done well."

"It's really important to find out whether your pelvic floor works if you're doing a contraction and getting a program that is specific. It's almost like seeing pelvic health physios as personal trainers for [your] pelvic floor specifically."

When it comes to incontinence, prevention is better than a cure - and looking after your pelvic floor muscles through programs and exercises will help stop symptoms from showing up further down the line.

Along with electromagnetic stimulation (EMSELLA), other treatment options such as electric muscle stimulation and radiofrequency treatments may be suitable.

In a nutshell, radiofrequency treatments basically use electrical energy to generate heat and trigger skin tightening.

Another popular electric muscle stimulation treatment is InMode’s women’s wellness device - EmpowerRF.


It uses different energies to treat different concerns, depending on the patient - including bladder dysfunction, genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) and strengthening pelvic floor muscles.

There's also a treatment called Femfit.

It's basically a medical device that is worn internally, and as you contract your pelvic floor muscles, pressure sensors detect the movement and send signals via Bluetooth to the femfit® app on your phone and/or tablet. These exercises increase pelvic floor muscle strength and coordination.

James said, "With EMSELLA, you sit on something, and the machine sort of does the work for your pelvic floor, which can be really useful at times. With FemFit, it's like you're doing the work but you're getting feedback about whether your technique is correct."

If you think you may have incontinence or want to know more about what treatment options are suitable for you, it's worth chatting with a professional.

Above all, just remember you're not alone.

Would you try, or have you used, any of these treatments for incontinence? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Emsella; Mamamia.

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