It started her senior year in high school – just a little bit of leaking during volleyball practice – but by the time she sought help, incontinence was impacting her whole life. She was miserable and she was not alone.
Although urinary incontinence is a widespread problem, sufferers are reticent to seek treatment. On average, people wait 6.5 years from the first symptoms to getting treatment. It might be because they think this is just part of aging, or that it’s a hard subject to share with anyone, even their doctor. If you are experiencing incontinence, here are some mistakes you might be making:
1.Reducing Fluid Intake – Although reducing fluids might seem logical if you struggle with incontinence, you can’t solve it by severely cutting back on fluids. This can lead to dehydration, constipation, and kidney stones, which can irritate your bladder and actually make symptoms worse.
2. Doing The Wrong Exercises – Kegels have become synonymous with pelvic floor treatment. But just as one exercise does not work for everyone with shoulder pain, Kegels are not a cure all. Many people with incontinence have a tight or overactive pelvic floor. Attempting to control the problem with “Kegels” only makes it worse. The pelvic floor muscle group needs to be exposed to many variations of exercise, which often involves increasing awareness and relaxation of those muscles. Even learning new breathing patterns might be a part of the solution. Performing Kegels alone is unlikely to fix incontinence.
3. Doing Exercise Incorrectly – Pelvic floor muscles are tough to train. You flex your biceps and you see and feel the muscle contract. But with the pelvic floor muscles, you can’t see them move and often can’t feel them move without guidance. Many people think they are using the correct muscles, but find out in PT that they have been tightening their thighs, buttocks, heck – tightening anything but the pelvic floor. A study by Bump et al., 2013 (published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) found that 50% of people attempting to perform a pelvic floor contraction following verbal instruction failed to perform the exercise correctly. In fact, 25% performed the exercise in a way that could potentially promote incontinence.
This is an example of what not to do:
4. Bad Habits: The way you pee makes a difference. If you have a habit of going “just in case”, the bladder thinks it doesn’t have to fill completely before sending the signal to your brain to give you the urge. Semi-squatting or hovering above the toilet seat can also result in incomplete emptying. And, straining or “pushing” to urinate puts pressure and stretch on the muscles of the pelvic floor, causing them to weaken.
5. The Biggest Mistake of All – Doing Nothing: People often ignore the beginning stages of incontinence. Either they think it will go away on its own, or that it’s a normal part of having a baby or of getting older. Don’t make this mistake. Incontinence is common but not normal. Incontinence is easiest to treat in the beginning stages. By addressing it early, you are reducing the chances of it becoming worse or requiring more invasive treatment.
ALTA physical therapists have training to address issues of incontinence. If you are struggling with leaks when you laugh, sneeze, jump, or run, make an appointment now. We’ll help you get to the bottom of it.