Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

We often talk about incontinence as if it has already happened. In most cases, if you’re visiting this website, it probably has. But there are many things that you can do that can prevent incontinence from starting in the first place. Most of these things may also help you manage, or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence once you’ve already gotten it. Read below for some tips to stop incontinence in its tracks.

5 Tips To Prevent Incontinence

Tip #1: Maintain A Healthy Weight

Carrying around extra weight puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing the muscles to weaken and lead to leaks. In addition, folks who are overweight generally put extra pressure on their bladder, which can lead to leakage. Maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy diet and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Bonus: incorporating exercise into your day can strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles, leading to even greater protection from leaks.

Tip #2: Don’t Smoke

Smoking on its own is an ugly habit and harmful to your health in more ways than one. People who smoke can eventually develop a chronic “smokers cough”. This chronic coughing can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken and lead to incontinence. Smoking also irritates the bladder, causing you to need more frequent trips to the bathroom. And, smoking can lead to bladder cancer. Need help kicking the habit? Read these tips.  

Tip #3: Keep Your Pelvic Floor In Shape

The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports the bladder, rectum and the uterus in women, and the bladder, rectum and prostate in men.  These muscles are essential in maintaining control over your bladder and bowel. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy can go a long way in preventing or treating incontinence.  Learn more about the pelvic floor and how you can protect it here. 

Tip #4: See A PT After Childbirth

We just talked about how important the pelvic floor is in maintaining continence. But certain things, like childbirth, can really wreak havoc on the pelvic floor and cause it to weaken. Many women don’t understand the impact that a weakened pelvic floor can have on them, even long after the baby is born.  Seeing a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health soon after childbirth can be very helpful, as they can ensure that you are healing properly and learning how to correctly (and safely) get your pelvic floor back into shape.  If left untreated, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence and even pelvic organ prolapse later in life, so this simple step can go a long way in protecting yourself for the future.  Learn more about how a physical therapist can help you here.

Tip #5: Watch Your Diet

This may seem to echo Tip #1, but even if you are at an ideal weight, if you’re eating foods that irritate your bladder (and if you’re susceptible to incontinence) then you may be setting yourself up for leaks.  There are many common bladder irritants (see a list of some of them here) but they can vary from person to person: what irritates one person may not bother another. If you do experience leaks, pay close attention to your diet and take note of foods that may be triggering leaks.

Staying Strong And Preventing Bladder Leakage During Menopause

preventing #bladderleakage during menopause

It’s estimated that a whopping 6,000 women reach menopause each day in the US. Menopause happens to every woman, and is the shift in hormonal changes that result in the cessation of menstruation.

While many women know about the common symptoms of menopause (Hot flashes! Insomnia!), there are certain changes that come about in menopause that are often surprising to women. One of these is loss of bladder or bowel control

A number of things occur during menopause that can contribute to you suddenly experiencing a bit of leakage

Weakening Of Pelvic Floor Muscles

Your pelvic floor muscles play a huge role in controlling your bladder and bowel. As the muscles weaken, it can lead to more urgent needs to use the restroom, and more leaks. Weakened muscles can also lead to an increased risk for pelvic organ prolapse.

A Less Elastic Bladder

Changes that occur during menopause can cause the bladder to lose it’s elasticity and the ability to stretch. This can cause increased irritation in the bladder when it fills with urine, and can impact the nerves that regulate bladder function, which can sometimes cause overactive bladder (OAB).

Vaginal Dryness

During and after menopause, the body produces much less estrogen, which results in an increase of vaginal dryness. This dryness has a number of consequences, which can include an increase in the amount of urinary tract infections.

Anal Trauma

While anal trauma is usually the result of childbirth, many women may not see the results of it until menopause, when that, combined with a weakened pelvic floor can increase the risk of fecal incontinence.

It’s important to know that while these changes can lead to bladder or bowel leakage, the symptoms can also be avoided or eliminated by taking proper care of the pelvic floor. It’s never too late to start strengthening things up.

Here are some ways to increase the strength of your pelvic floor as you go through this period

Get Active

As simple as it sounds, simply staying active is great to keep your weight, and overall health in check.  Gentle exercises, like walking, that don’t place too much pressure on the pelvic floor are best.

Try Squats

Squats are a great way to build up your glute and core muscles. To perform one, stand with feet shoulder with apart. Keeping your knees over your feet (don’t let them move past your toes), lower your bottom down as if you are sitting in a chair, being careful not to lean too far forward. Raise back up to starting position.  Aim for 10 reps per day. (Note, if these feel too difficult for you, try wall squats, which use the same movement, but are performed with your back to the wall for extra support.)

Kegel

When done correctly, kegels can do wonders for helping women with incontinence.  They help strengthen the muscles that prevent bladder leakage and also help to avoid or reduce the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.  Remember that when performing a kegal, learning how to relax the pelvic floor is just as important as learning how to tighten it. In some cases, women have pelvic floors that are too tight and cannot relax, and if this is the case, kegels can end up aggravating your condition. If you’re concerned about your pelvic floor, or just can’t get the hang of how to do a kegel, visit a pelvic floor physical therapist for help.

The Importance of Diet & Exercise In Preventing Diabetes

The Importance Of Diet And Exercise In Preventing Diabetes

We all know the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and getting consistent exercise into our daily lives.  But with over 29.1 million Americans living with Type 2 diabetes – that’s nearly 10% of us! – it’s more important than ever that we get ourselves in check. 

Type 2 diabetes is marked by high levels of blood sugar.  Typically, insulin (produced by the pancreas) helps process sugar (glucose) in the body. However, over time, those with Type 2 diabetes develop insulin resistance, a condition where the body does not use insulin properly and allows glucose to build up in the blood.  This starves the cells for energy and, over time, can create lots of other damage in the body, including to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or the heart.  Nerve damage can sometimes also occur in the bladder, causing diabetics to experience incontinence. While men and women are both at risk for developing diabetes, men have been found to be more susceptible to the disease based purely on biology.

Many people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  What does this look like? A diet rich in vegetables (these should take up half your plate!), fruit, lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy in moderate amounts, and healthy fats from things like avocado and nuts is best.  Additionally, getting 30 minutes of good exercises per day (think brisk walking, strength training, and stretching) at least 5 days a week can help keep your blood glucose in check, and lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Want to learn more about how to prevent or manage diabetes with diet and exercise? Check out the recommendations from the American Diabetes Association and get yourself on the right path today.

5 PT-Friendly Exercises You Can Do With Your Family

The holiday season can be one of blessings and abundance. But, all the celebration – or the preparation for the celebrations – can leave one feeling stressed. Getting multiple families together can be challenging but the reward is often great.  But what to do about the tension of arranging these get-togethers? How about thinking about exercise as a great stress buster. Instead of reaching for that extra cocktail during your family get together why not think about a few PT-approved exercises you can do with the whole family during the holiday season to stay happy and healthy.

Walk Together

A brisk walk is good for your heart. And as a bonus, you may get a good a heart-to-heart chat in while exercising your muscles, lungs and building bone mass. This is one of the best ways to burn off all those extra calories that are generally consumed this time of year. J

Take a Deep Breath

Deep breathing not only helps keep you relaxed but also keeps your lungs healthy. Germs tend to bred in our climate controlled indoor environments. But, taking a deep breath especially outdoors can help keep the lungs clear and can be calming.

Laugh a little

Laughter can be good for the soul. A good belly roll can relax the shoulders and is a great abdominal and pelvic floor exercise. So, put in a comedy, play some cards or relive old stories about Uncle Dave wearing dirty underwear. Just let the good times roll, or belly roll for that matter.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes

Challenge the young and older family members in playing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Believe me – the preschool-aged family members will know this sing-song of a game. Here is how it goes. Sing … head, shoulder, etc while touching your head, then shoulders with both hands. Each time around sing faster. It will be great to keep the joints moving and is a guaranteed way to get everyone laughing.

Water. Would anyone like water?

Dehydration. Stress. Full tummy. Can be a trifecta that can aggravate incontinence. So, let’s enjoy a glass of water or two to every glass of wine, beer or cocktail. You can do it. You will feel better and your bladder will thank you for it.

Happy Holidays! 

About the Author, Michelle Herbst:   I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.

About the Author, Michelle Herbst:  I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Your Fitness Plan

Physical Therapy And Fitness: How They Work Together

A guest blog post from Michelle Herbst

Fitness is defined as the condition of being physically fit. There are many parameters to assess one’s fitness level.

Patients often focus on how fast, how far and how long an activity can be completed,  while physical therapists (PTs) focus on the mechanics of a body’s ability.

Because physical therapists are intimately aware of musculoskeletal anatomy and comprehend how the individual joints, muscles and nerves work together synergistically, physical therapy compliments general fitness by designing an individual home care and exercise plan allowing you to go faster, farther and longer.

Because PT’s tend to think beyond the fitness concerns of a patient, many questions are asked about the onset of the injury or current limitation a patient is experiencing. All of these questions help PT’s get to the root of the information that help them formulate an individualized plan.

Some questions patients often here are: How did the injury happen? When and where?  What did you do after the injury? Have you seen your primary care provider? Are you on any medication to treat the injury? How is this effecting your daily activities?

When a particular task, such as walking, has been negatively impacted by injury or illness the physical therapist may measure how fast, how far and how long the patient can complete the activity before symptoms worsen or force the patient to stop.  The information gathered is used to develop an individual treatment plan.

At the end of the day, a PT’s job is to get the patient’s body mechanically fit to complete fitness activities and excel at regular, day-to-day movements that are necessary for an active life.

About the Author, Michelle Herbst:  I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.
About the Author, Michelle Herbst:  I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.

It's All About The Base: Learning How To Work Out Your Pelvic Floor

It's All About The Base

We all have health goals. They are often about being more health conscious and physically active.  I’ve heard varying goals from “I want to lose 15 pounds” to “I want to be able to run my first marathon,” but rarely do I hear “I want a stronger pelvic floor” or “I want to be able to jump or exercise without leaking urine every time.” In fact, most people don’t even know about these muscles and how essential a strong pelvic floor is for everyday function.  

The pelvic floor is an amazing set of muscles that span inside your pelvis, from your pubic bones to your tailbone, that act as the base of your core.  They work to control your bladder and bowel and maintain continence, allow for pain-free and enjoyable intercourse, hold up the pelvic organs and help stabilize the pelvic girdle and spine…that’s a lot of responsibility for muscles that are often neglected in the daily workout plan.

As a pelvic floor specialist, I am often asked “How do I work out my pelvic floor?”  The fact is, most people don’t know how to turn on their muscles the RIGHT way.  They are often trying so hard to squeeze as tight as possible that they are engaging everything but their pelvic floor! They will hold their breath, clench their butt, squeeze their inner thighs, tighten up their abdominals and totally miss the boat. 

A pelvic floor contraction, or Kegel, is a very subtle feeling.  It includes a compression and lifting of the muscles deep inside the pelvis, like you are trying to suck a marble up with your vagina or lift your testicles in fear of walking into ice cold water!  Too frank? Well then imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine, which is actually a good test to see if you are engaging the RIGHT muscles.  You can always tighten your pelvic floor mid-stream and see if you can stop, or at least slow down the flow, but this should just be a test, and never a means to actually exercise these muscles.

Although the pelvic floor is the star of this article, you have to also understand that these muscles don’t work in isolation.  Remember that the pelvic floor is the BASE of the core, but also works with other muscles as an integrated system.  The major supporter of the pelvic floor is the diaphragm, which is the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the rib cage that is essential for breathing. 

When you take a deep breath in through your nose, your rib cage expands and the diaphragm moves downwards, changing the pressure system in your abdomen so your pelvic floor muscles RELAX.  As you exhale through your mouth, the diaphragm moves upwards, and again, the intra-abdominal pressure is changed, and the pelvic floor returns to its resting position.  Wow! Who knew that just practicing breathing could also be working the pelvic floor!

If you want to get fancy, you can coordinate the two muscle groups together:  

Start lying on your back with your knees bent.  Place each hand on the side of your rib cage. Inhale deeply through your nose, imagining your rib cage is expanding in all directions into your hands, and keep your pelvic floor relaxed.  As you exhale through your mouth, let your rib cage return to resting position and gently tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for up to five seconds, then release.  Repeat this sequence for a good 5-10 minutes each day…it’s more about the quality of the breathing and pelvic floor contractions, not just the quantity.  (If you are a numbers kind of person, then try to shoot for 30-50 contractions a day.)

It is essential that you allow for the relaxing aspect of this exercise.  Like any other muscle in the body, we need to make sure the pelvic floor is able to go through its entire range of motion, which means it should be able to tighten, and then release or relax, so it can be able to contract again.  Remember that these muscles are working 100% of the time, and in order to maintain a strong pelvic floor, you need to let these muscles RELAX in between each contraction

 As you feel more comfortable with this exercise, try it sitting or standing, so you can start working out your pelvic floor throughout the day. The beauty of exercising your base is that no one even knows you are doing it!  You can be standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in your car, waiting for the light to turn green, and BAM!  You are working your base out!  Even better, think about integrating your pelvic floor and diaphragm into your gym routine, especially lifting weights or doing other core work.

I dare you to start thinking about exercising all aspects of your core, especially your pelvic floor.  Remember, it’s all about the base!

Victoria Yeisley, DPT, has been specializing in pelvic floor physical therapy since 2008.  She completed her Doctor of Physical Therapy at Boston University and currently works with Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago, IL, where she is integrated as a part of the OB-GYN team.  Victoria’s passion lies in empowering her patients to not only be educated about their pelvic floor, but to gain control over their symptoms.  She feels extremely lucky to be able to practice her passion every day and hopes to be able to continue to promote pelvic floor muscle awareness for all!