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.

4 Moves To Help You Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Before You Get Pregnant.

How to firm up your pelvic floor before you become pregnant.

Thinking of trying for a baby soon? Now is the perfect time to start strengthening your body in preparation for pregnancy and childbirth. And even if you’re not quite at that stage yet, the moves listed here are great for anyone to improve pelvic floor and core strength.

The pelvic floor acts as a basket of muscles that help support the pelvic organs (your uterus, bladder and bowels).  Keeping them toned can not only help ease pregnancy discomforts (like urine leakage and hemorrhoids), but it can also help you later on in life as your body naturally changes due to hormones, and age. The moves below work not only the pelvic floor, but also other important muscles connected to it to ensure overall core strength.

Four Moves To Firm Up Your Pelvic Floor Before Pregnancy

Kegels 

There’s a reason that you’ve heard again and again that kegels are important.  This exercise has long been touted by professionals as one of the most vital exercises in increasing your pelvic floor strength.   Follow the instructions below to be sure you’re performing them correctly.

  1. Identify your pelvic floor muscles by attempting to stop your urine flow mid-stream. If you can do this, you’ve found the muscles! (Note – don’t practice your kegels in this way on a regular basis – it should only be done to identify the correct muscles.)

  2. Performing with an empty bladder, your first goal should be to tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds. Then relax them for 5 seconds. Try to do 5 reps on your first day. As you gain confidence from your new routine, aim for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

  3. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. Also, avoid holding your breath. Breathe freely during the exercises to keep from stressing the rest of your body.

  4. Aim for at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions per day. The beauty of kegels is that they can be done anywhere, anytime. Try performing them during your downtime, such as waiting in line, or sitting at a stoplight.

  5. Give yourself encouragement. These exercises will feel foreign in the beginning. But the longer you stay with this, the better your bladder health will become. As a bonus, Kegels have been reported to increase sexual pleasure as well.

To learn more about kegels and the variations of kegel exercises that you can perform, review the information on our website found here, or check out one of our most visited blogs here.

Squats

Strong glutes and hamstrings are very important to the overall health of your pelvic floor.  And one of the best exercises to develop these muscles is the deep squat.  Squatting is actually one of the most natural forms of movement there is, however our modern-day lifestyle, characterized by long hours of sitting at a desk or on a couch, has made the squat virtually extinct.  By strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, you’ll be adding additional support to your pelvic floor.  Follow the instructions below to make sure you are performing squats safely and correctly.

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointed slightly outward.

  2. Keep your spine in a neutral position – don’t round your back, and don’t over accentuate the natural arch of your back.

  3. Extend your arms out straight so they are parallel with the ground, palms facing down.

  4. Balance your weight on the heels and the balls of your feet.

  5. Taking a deep breath, begin sending your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend.

  6. Keep your back straight, and your chest and shoulders up.

  7. Be sure to keep your knees directly in line with your feet as you squat.

  8. Continue lowering your hips until they are slightly lower than your knees to perform a deep squat.

  9. Use your core to push yourself back up, keeping your bodyweight in your heels.

  10. Congratulations! You have just completed 1 rep!

It may help to watch yourself in a mirror as you first perform this exercise, as it is easy to perform squats incorrectly.  Some things to watch for are not dropping low enough, leaning your body too far forward, allowing your knees to drift inward, and performing the exercise too quickly.   Aim to complete about 2-3 sets of 10 reps daily.

Finding Your TA

Your transverse abdominus, also known as the TA muscle, is the muscle that is located deep within your core, below the six-pack muscles.  This muscle is often overlooked, but it serves a vital role.  The TA muscle helps to stabilize the core, pelvis and lower back, and is recruited almost anytime a movement is made.  Strengthening your TA muscle will ensure that you are protecting your back and spine from extra force or pressure when you move, and will help aid in pelvic floor stabilization.

The following steps provide a very basic way to locate your TA muscle and give it a workout:

  1. Lie on your back, with your knees bent.

  2. Place your hand on your stomach, just over your belly button.

  3. Inhale.

  4. While you exhale, tighten your stomach muscles and pull your belly button inward. You should imagine that you are tightening a corset and flattening your stomach.

  5. Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps each.

Once you have a good feeling for where your TA muscle is and how to activate it, you can begin incorporating the action into your everyday life - while sitting at work, standing in line, etc.  Also try to practice tightening your TA muscle, like a brace, every time you perform a movement such as lifting, sneezing, squatting, etc.  With practice, this action can become automatic and will aid in your core stability.

Multifidus

The multifidus is one of the most important muscles in aiding spinal support.  The muscles are attached to the spinal column and are called upon when bending backwards, turning, and bending side to side.  These muscles work with the rest of your pelvic floor muscles and TA muscle to help you hold good posture, and to stabilize your lower back and pelvis during movement. Try the exercise below to strengthen the multifidus muscle:

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your forehead on your hands, or a towel, looking straight down. (Not to the side)

  2. Very slowly, rotate your pelvis back slightly so that your tailbone lifts toward the ceiling. This should be a very subtle movement.

  3. Hold for one second, then rotate your pelvis back to the floor.

  4. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps each.

Practice activating your multifidus muscle throughout your day by keeping good posture. 

Note: Even before you’ve had children, there may be times when certain pelvic floor exercises are not appropriate. And, it’s important to know that there is no “one” exercise alone that will strengthen your pelvic floor as it is supported by many muscles.  Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  And, if you have concerns about your pelvic floor, no matter what life-stage you are in, consult a trained physical therapist specialized in women’s health. Your Physical Therapist will also be able to ensure that you are performing the moves correctly so that you are getting the most out of your workout.  Use the NAFC Doctor Finder to find a doctor in your area. 

 

Pre-pregnancy And The Pelvic Floor - It's All About Prevention

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy

If you’ve never been pregnant, it’s likely you’ve spent little time thinking about your pelvic floor. And yet, now is exactly the time that you should be focused on it.  A healthy pelvic floor can prepare you for a great pregnancy and a safe delivery, and it can prevent a host of problems that may occur after childbirth. The pelvic floor works as a basket of muscles, holding your uterus, bladder, and rectum in place.  When you’re young, and your pelvic floor has not suffered the effects of age or childbirth, you usually see few complications. But sometimes, strain on the pelvic floor (like carrying a growing baby for nine month, giving birth, and the natural effects of gravity over time) can cause problems like bladder leakage. The good news? These effects can be lessened, or even eliminated, if proper care is given to the pelvic floor now.  Here are the steps you need to take to ensure that you’re taking proper care of your pelvic floor, and yourself, prior to becoming pregnant.

How To Prepare Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy

Assemble your squad.

Finding the right team of professionals is key to keeping your health in check.  If you haven’t already, do your due diligence and start seeing these health care professionals on a regular basis.

  • Gyno
  • Primary Care physician
  • Dentist
  • Dermatologist

Need help finding a health care professional? Use our Doctor Finder!

Keep a healthy weight and develop a workout routine.

If you’re planning to get pregnant, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that weight doesn’t matter pre-pregnancy – the healthier you are now, the healthier you will be during your pregnancy, and the easier it may be to shed those extra pounds after baby arrives. Not only that, but keeping your core and pelvic floor strong now will help better prepare you for pregnancy and childbirth.

Maintain a healthy diet.  

Eating right is always a good idea, and it can really help you maintain your weight. In addition, keeping your diet in check can help you prevent diabetes (a condition that is on the rise in the US, and that, in some cases lead to neurogenic bladder.)

Routine Exams

Get a well-woman exam every year – be sure to talk with your physician about general health metrics like blood pressure levels, diet, weight, and any stress that you may be experiencing. Have a regular Pap smear every 3 years if you’re between 21 and 30. While you’re at it, be sure to have a yearly breast exam to check for any unusual changes. Do your own monthly exams as well and become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel.

Quit those bad habits

If you haven’t heard, smoking is really not cool anymore and even if you don’t believe that, consider this – aside from a host of other health problems, smoking can contribute to a leaky bladder

Uncover any risk factors that you may have by learning your health history

Talk with your family to learn about any risks that you may have health-wise. Knowing these now can help you prevent possible health threats down the road.

Even if you only choose to follow a couple of these steps prior to pregnancy, know this: this time is all about prevention – the steps you take now to take care of your body will pay off in folds down the road.  Don’t wait to start taking control of your health. 

Check in with us all month to learn how to stay healthy at every stage of life.

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy And Beyond

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy

A guest blog written by Michelle Herbst, PT

Congratulations! As you prepare for your baby there is a lot to think about. Doctor’s appointments. Baby showers. Child care. Nervous talks with the Dad-to-be. And, don’t forget - YOU. When you start sharing your news - everyone will give you advice. Some stories will be embellished for the good and others will be overstated for how difficult their pregnancy was. But, keep in mind - this is your experience.

Realistic Expectations:

Some Moms-to-be have problems with leakage. Others do not. A positive pregnancy test does not mean you will develop incontinence or a prolapse - which is a descent of the pelvic organs into the vaginal canal. But, normal changes during pregnancy and the process of labor and delivery can set up the conditions for incontinence and prolapse to occur.  

So, here is my advice as a Mom and a physical therapist for preparing your mind and body for your big day.

Kegel:

You will read about these. Your OB Nurse will ask, ‘Are you doing Kegels?’ But, why are Kegels so important during pregnancy?

Performing Kegels during pregnancy can help you prevent or manage bouts of leakage, and will also help you tune in and tone the muscles that will help push and slide your baby out of the birth canal. Here are a more few reasons why Kegels are so important:

-        To establish a mind-body connection of how the kegel muscles feel when activated.

-        To help create stability of spine and pelvis as your baby grows.

-        To prepare for the arrival of your baby and protection of your pelvic organs during delivery.

Labor can be quick or long. Labor can be easy or difficult. You do not get to choose. But, with preparation of your mind and muscles, along with the skills of your birthing team, the end result will be you holding your precious new baby.

Thoughts on Kegels during Pregnancy:

Think of the pelvic floor as a muscular sling that is tethered between your pelvic bone and tailbone. During pregnancy and labor the pelvic floor muscles lengthen but also need to be able push. The goal of performing Kegels during pregnancy is to improve the strength and function of the pelvic floor as well as encourage lengthening of the pelvic floor muscles.

When performing a Kegel it will feel like a gentle tightening and lifting up and in of the muscles between the pubic bone and tail bone. You may also feel a slight tightening between the belly button and pubic bone. That is your abdominals helping out too. That is OK. Now, hold the Kegel as you inhale and exhale. Relax, and let your pelvic floor muscles return to a normal resting tone or sensation.

The Kegel is a cyclic contraction. It is a shortening of the muscle fibers followed by a relaxation and lengthening of the muscles. If you contract the pelvic floor, and follow that with another pelvic floor contraction without focusing on letting the muscles relax and lengthen, you are training the pelvic floor to become shortened strong muscles not the lengthened strong muscles needed to help push and slide your baby out.

Squat:

Yes – squat. Deep squatting is a normal position to void and give birth. Performing a deep squat as an exercise will help you prepare for the positioning and muscle work needed during delivery.  Deep squatting will open your hips, aide in lengthening the pelvic floor and strengthen your glutes. 

How do I do this?

Slowly work into a squat. You may want to or need to keep your squat shallow by holding onto the back of a sturdy chair or counter top as you start bending at your hips and knees. Keep your gaze forward. Work on keeping your knees behind your toes or stacked above your ankle. Think about keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor. If you are able to get into a deep squat, you may want to place your hands at your chest and gently push your elbows to the inside of your knees.

How long and how many?

This will depend on you. You may want to focus on working into and holding the deep squat. Once you have achieved a deep squat you can work on relaxing into this position. Or, you may want to perform slow repetitions of a shallow squat to standing position and put your emphasis on tightening the glutes when returning to standing.

There really isn’t a right or wrong way – just your way and your focus or intent of the exercise. Pay attention to how you feel and listen to your body.

Your Story:

There will be aspects of your pregnancy and the arrival of your baby that you will not be able to control. But, remember, this is your story. You can prepare your mind and body to set up the best possible set of circumstances to deliver a healthy YOU to motherhood. 

 
 

Know Your Dos and Don'ts when it comes to incontinence. Some food just isn't worth it.

Incontinence Do's And Dont's 

There is a saying that 80% of the results in the gym take place in the kitchen. The same thought could be applied to your continence. What you eat and drink, how much, and even when you consume can dramatically impact incontinence. 

Know what foods and drinks can aggravate your system and make a note to avoid them when possible.

Diuretics

Diuretics are agents that promote the excretion of urine. They decrease blood volume by enhancing salt and water excretion by the kidney and lowering the resistance of blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. 

Caffeine is considered a diuretic, so monitor your body’s response to caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda.

Alcohol

Alcohol has also been shown clinically to act as a bladder stimulant, triggering symptoms of urgency. In addition, it acts as a diuretic and may induce greater frequency of urination.  This is all triggered because alcohol inhibits arginine vasopressin, also known as anti-diuretic hormone or ADH. The purpose of ADH is to conserve water in the body by reducing its loss in urine.

Acidic Foods

Some individuals have noted bladder control issues after consuming high acid and hot and spicy foods such as tomato-based dishes and citrus fruit drinks. The medical world isn’t entirely sure why this correlation is so prevalent, but citrus and high-acid foods have long been known as bladder irritants.

What diet tips do you use for bladder and bowel health maintenance? 

Our Best Tips For Disconnecting

Being a caregiver is often an around-the-clock job that demands a lot of energy, patience, and devotion. Remember to take the time to give yourself rest and relaxation.

Our best rule of thumb is preached before every plane takes off, “Assist yourself before assisting others.” If you don’t take care of your own body, you won’t be able to take care of others’. It's very important to carve out some time for yourself to relax and recharge.

Try our top three tips for disconnecting and relaxing:

1.    Go on a walk somewhere new.

Going to new places is always a great way to stretch your senses and try something different because a new place requires you to focus solely on your new environment.

Take a walk in a new place and soak up the fresh air and new location.

2.    Turn off your phone at a certain time every day. 

Get into a habit of turning off your phone at the same time every day so you can set a tone of unwinding and relaxing without screen time. Use this scheduling tactic to help you connect in the moment with people you’re with.

3.    Go to a coffee shop or quiet bookstore once a month on your own.

Stepping outside your environment helps you to relax without having all the normal distractions of home. Find a place near your home that offers a quiet, soothing atmosphere for you to relax with a book or a magazine. Make it your retreat every other week or once a month and commit to going.

We believe in settling down and taking stock in quiet time. How do you take care of yourself and disconnect?

How Sun Exposure Can Help You And Your Patients

We’ve all heard the warnings about too much sun exposure.  But did you know that some sun is actually beneficial to your health? 

Benefits Of Sun Exposure

Spending just 15 minutes in the sun each day can be healing and preventative for your health. 

Here are some big reasons to get out and enjoy the sun when you can:

Sunlight gives you a natural boost. 

Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin, which regulates appetite, sleep, memory, and mood.  Low serotonin levels are often seen during the winter months, when we spend much of the time indoors, and can contribute to seasonal affective disorder. 

It may lower your blood pressure. 

A study done in 2014 showed that exposure to UVA rays lowered subjects diastolic blood pressure by almost 5 points. 

Sunlight can improve your sleep. 

Exposure to natural sunlight increases the natural production of melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep) at night.

Increased Vitamin D. 

We’ve heard many times that the vitamin D produced from being in the sun can help your mood, but it also contributes to a host of other benefits.  Increased vitamin D may help prevent cancer, may lower risk for multiple sclerosis, and can contribute to bone health in older adults.

While these benefits are impressive, you still do need to use caution.  Skin cancer is still a risk, so limit your exposure to natural, direct sunlight to about 15 minutes per day, and then use sunscreen to safely enjoy the outdoors for the rest of the day.  

What's your favorite way to spend time in the sun?

5 Preventative Steps For A Healthy Bladder

5 Preventative Steps For A Healthy Bladder

Think incontinence is an inevitable part of aging?  Think again.  There are lots of things that you can do to improve your bladder health that don’t involve a trip to the doctor, medications, or surgery. 

Here are 5 ways you can help keep your bladder in check.

Watch what you eat and drink. 

For those with incontinence, what we eat and drink can greatly affect our bladders.  Make sure you are making healthy choices and avoiding bladder irritants.  And to learn what your bladder triggers are, keep a bladder diary.

Keep a healthy weight. 

Extra weight can put pressure on your bladder.  Make sure that you get regular exercise and pay attention to what you are eating to ensure you are maintaining an optimal weight.

Kegels. 

You’ve heard it before, and it’s worth repeating.  Just as regular exercise can benefit other parts of the body, these little exercises for your pelvic floor can help to strengthen the muscles to promote better bladder control.  Follow these steps to know that you are doing them correctly.

Avoid constipation and trouble voiding. 

Having a full rectum can create pressure on the bladder.  Additionally, sitting on the toilet for too long or straining during a bowel movement can cause damage to your pelvic floor.  Take steps to avoid constipation (eat well and drink lots of water) and reexamine your voiding posture

Don’t smoke. 

We all know that smoking is bad for you, but did you know it can affect your continence too?  Nicotine and smoke are bladder irritants and can be triggers for incontinence, making it one more reason to quit.

Share with us!  Tell us how you keep your bladder healthy in the comments below!