Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Roughly 45-51% of women experience some form of urinary incontinence at some period in their lives. Many women rely on some form of protection such as pads or panty liners to conceal leakage, but neglect to get help to tackle the root cause of the problem. Some may believe it is a normal part of the aging process. This is not true. While there is a higher incidence of urinary leakage with aging due to the loss of muscle mass that occurs as we age, urinary incontinence does not have to be a part of your aging process.
Urinary incontinence is typically a sign of weakness in the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle weakness can be precipitated by childbirth, surgery, trauma, loss of muscle mass due to aging, or muscle wasting due to lack of exercise.
Urinary incontinence can be categorized into 4 types: Stress Urinary Incontinence, Urge Urinary Incontinence, Mixed Incontinence and Functional Incontinence.
Stress Urinary Incontinence is loss of small amounts of urine with increased pressure on the bladder. You may experience leakage with sneezing, coughing, laughing, lifting or any other activity that puts pressure on the bladder. Being overweight or carrying a lot of weight in your abdomen can also increase the incidence of stress incontinence.
Urge Urinary Incontinence is a medium or large amount of urine loss that occurs with an intense, sudden and strong urge to urinate. Eating or drinking a lot of beverages or food that irritate your bladder may increase your incidences of urge incontinence. With urge incontinence, the pelvic floor muscles can be weak or overactive.
Mixed Incontinence is a combination of stress urinary incontinence and urge urinary incontinence.
Functional Incontinence is loss of urine that occurs when a person is physically unable to make it to a toilet in time due to some type of disability or conditions.
Knowing what type of urinary incontinence you are dealing with can give your healthcare provider a better understanding of what you are going through and what treatment techniques are appropriate for your situation.
Here are 4 easy things you can do right now to minimize or eliminate Urinary Incontinence:
1) Identify bladder irritants in your diet
Certain foods and beverages may cause you bladder to become irritated and lead to increased episodes of urinary urgency and urinary incontinence. Widely known bladder irritants include caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda. Citrus juices such as orange and pineapple juices may also irritate your bladder. Spicy foods and some dairy products are known bladder irritants along with many alcoholic beverages. Knowing what triggers your bladder may be a key step in decreasing or eliminating your episodes of urinary incontinence. Try keeping a bladder diary that documents the following:
· everything you drink and eat with the time you ate or drank
· every time you urinate with the time you urinated and
· every time you have an accident with the time accidental urine loss occurred.
See if you can correlate your dietary intake with either the time of day your accidents occur or the frequency of urinary incontinence you have in a day. Once you have identified an irritant, try to eliminate it from your diet or reduce the amount you intake and then see if you notice a reduction or elimination in
the episodes of urinary incontinence you experience.
2) Squeeze before you sneeze
Performing a pelvic brace or “knack” with increased abdominal pressure during lifting, sneezing, coughing, jumping, and laughing just to name a few, can provide sufficient urethral closure to prevent urine from exiting during those activities. You can practice this by squeezing your pelvic floor muscles while eliciting a cough. Your goal is to try to maintain the pelvic floor contraction during the duration of the cough. Applying this strategy every time you perform an activity that causes you to leak may drastically decrease your episodes of stress urinary incontinence.
3) Try the urge suppression technique
This technique can be used to send a signal to your bladder to relax during an intense urge to urinate, resulting in a lessened, more controllable urge. This works through a voluntary urinary inhibition reflex. Simply put, when your pelvic floor muscles are contracting, your bladder should relax, and vice versa. This technique is performed by doing 5 to 10 strong, but quick pelvic floor muscle contractions in a row when you have a sudden, strong urge to urinate. Repeat this until the urge becomes controllable and you are able to slowly walk towards the toilet. Try incorporating distraction techniques such as counting backwards from 100 subtracting 9 or making a to do list. This strategy may take some practice but if you can master this skill, you may reduce your episodes of urge urinary incontinence.
4) Contact a Pelvic Floor PT to get an appropriate exercise prescription
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is a non-surgical, effective approach to managing any type of urinary incontinence and pelvic floor related dysfunction. Building your pelvic floor muscle strength can improve your urethral closure pressure, thus limiting the loss of urine during inappropriate times. A Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist can be a key part of your healthcare team in achieving your goals of staying dry. Your Physical Therapist will assess your pelvic floor muscles and create a plan of care that can include an exercise prescription to build your pelvic floor muscle strength that is tailored to your individualized pelvic floor abilities.
If urinary incontinence has become a nuisance in your life, speak with your healthcare provider and inquire about all available treatment options. Urinary incontinence should not be accepted as a normal part of the aging process. It can be treated. To find a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist in your area, visit www.aptapelvichealth.org/ptlocator/
Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise program.
Dr. Michelle Howze Moore is a board-certified women’s health Physical Therapist in the greater Houston area. With over 10 years’ experience specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction, prenatal and postpartum pain, and breast cancer rehabilitation, just to name a few, Dr. Howze has touched the lives of thousands of patients with her compassionate demeanor and expert knowledge in this area of specialized care.