Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of incontinence. Green tea may help with weight loss.Read More
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Those with incontinence know that having it can be a lot of work. Just being prepared takes effort, and having an accident can create a laundry list (literally) of things you have to do.
There are of course many standard things that you do to protect yourself. Wear protection, talk to your doctor, etc. But, like with any condition, people find different ways of coping that may not always seem as obvious to others. We wanted to know what people do on a daily basis that helps them deal with incontinence. So we asked. Here are some of the best tips we heard:
Talk about it.
One of the first and best things you can do when you have incontinence is to talk about it. Many people are embarrassed to have incontinence and for that reason try to keep it hidden from friends, family and even their doctor for years. But opening up about your incontinence can really take a load off. You’ll often find that people are supportive you and you may just find the push you need to seek treatment. Too nervous to talk to someone close to you? Try the NAFC message boards. It’s an anonymous forum filled with supportive people who are experiencing bladder or bowel conditions. It’s a warm and friendly community and can be a great place to connect with others who can share tips with you, or just lend an ear. Sign up for the message boards here.
Don’t be afraid to change your doctor.
Most physicians are very helpful when patients come to them with incontinence. But if you feel that you’re being brushed off, it’s time to find a new physician. Incontinence may be common as we age, but it’s not normal, and you should never be told to just live with it. And, if you’re feeling like your treatment plan just isn’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about changing things up. Remember – you are in charge of your own health. Be your own advocate.
We’ve heard from many people that using baby powder helps to keep moisture at bay when wearing absorbent briefs. This is a great option to try if you experience a lot of sweating.
Research your condition.
So many people with incontinence live for years in denial, thinking that if they ignore the problem, it might go away, or at the very least, they won’t have to admit they have the condition. But that’s not a good way to live. Learn as much as you can about your condition and the treatments available. Try behavioral modifications to see if any of them work. Talk to your doctor about your research, and let him or her know if you find something you‘re interested in trying. Again – no one will care more about your health than you, so don’t be a bystander. Get busy and be in the know. Because knowledge really is power.
Pay attention to what you eat.
It sounds simple, but watching what you eat really can have an effect on your bladder. First, identify your triggers. Keep a bladder diary for a few days and see if you notice any patterns. Do you feel an urgent need every time you have a diet soft drink? Have an accident each morning after your orange juice? You might start to see some trends that correlate to what you eat, indicating that those are foods that are irritating your bladder. Once you identify your problem foods or drinks, try eliminating them and see if it makes a difference.
Don’t be afraid to try lots of products until you find one that works.
There are so many products on the market, it’s nearly impossible that you won’t eventually find one that works for you. The trick is to think about the 3 F’s: form, fit and function. In other words, figure out what style you like, make sure the fit is good, and think about how and when you will use the product. Then, try lots of brands and styles until you find one that works best. Many mail order services offer sample packs to make it easier (and less expensive) to try different products and most of them also have consultants on hand to walk you through selecting something that will be right for you.
Incontinence can really shake up your confidence. You may feel nervous to go out for fear of having an accident. Or you may be scared that someone will notice you’re wearing absorbent products. But incontinence is a medical condition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And since over 25 million people live with incontinence, you likely know someone else who has this problem too. So keep your chin up, get treatment, and get busy living your life. Holding yourself back because of something like incontinence just isn’t worth it.
Do you run to the bathroom after every meal? Do you ever notice that you always seem to have an accident after eating a specific type of food? It’s no coincidence. What you eat and drink has a huge effect on your bathroom habits, and if you’re suffering from bladder leakage (or bowel leakage, for that matter), it’s worth your time to start paying more attention to your diet.
There are many known bladder irritants that may be causing you trouble.
Below is a list of some of the most common foods that have been known to irritate the bladder:
Citrus Juice & Fruits
Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
The sugar, caffeine, or acidity in these foods and drinks can irritate the bladder, causing an accidental leakage to occur. If you think one of these foods may be contributing to your bladder leaks, try eliminating it from your diet for a couple of weeks and see what happens. After a while, slowly add it back in and see if the problem reemerges. If so, you know it’s a food or drink you should avoid.
Everyone is different of course, and not all of the foods listed above will be triggers for everyone. That cup of coffee that causes you to sprint to the ladies room each morning may not have any effect on someone else struggling with bladder leakage. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of what you eat and drink. A bladder diary can be ideal for this task by letting you track what you consume, and also when you have accidents. Over time, you may start to see a correlation between that tomato sauce you love and your trips to the bathroom. A bladder diary also comes in handy when talking with your doctor about your condition. It gives them a roadmap of what you’re experiencing and helps them in diagnosing your problem and finding a solution.
Ready to start tracking? Download your free bladder or bowel diary here.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the past year or two, you’ve likely noticed an increase in stories about the importance of gut health. The gut, it turns out, is responsible for how your body works –your immunity, your energy levels, your hormone balance, waste elimination, and even how you think can all be affected by an unhealthy gut. And while there are many factors that affect gut health (stress levels, the amount of shut-eye you get), what you eat plays an important role in ensuring your gut is helping you operate optimally.
As of late, many health gurus have been touting probiotics as a great way to improve your gut health. And it’s true that the gut needs good probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in some foods and supplements to help it do its job. But how do you get these good bacteria, and are they right for you?
Most experts agree that a healthy dose of probiotics is a good thing for most people. You can get many probiotics through foods you might be eating already. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi, yogurt, and beverages like kefir and kombucha, are all great options if you want to eat more probiotic foods. You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement if your diet lacks these food types.
Experts warn to use a bit of caution when initially consuming foods high in probiotics, as they may cause a bit of irritation in your digestive system as your body gets used to them. Additionally, many probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to do your research on brands and choose a high-quality product. As always, talk with your doctor before you start taking a probiotic, as they may not be for everyone. Those with an illness that affects the immune system may not be a good fit, as the probiotics may cause the person to get sick.
Want some more info on this subject? Here’s a great guide on taking probiotics from Harvard Health.
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.
For many of us, January is a time for setting resolutions – A blank slate where we can rewrite a new reality for ourselves. For those with incontinence, knowing where to start treatment can be one of the biggest challenges. Luckily, we’re here to help.
Treatment for incontinence has come a long way in recent years.
Here’s a breakdown of steps you can take right now, as well as some more advanced options to look at for the future.
1. Manage incontinence with adult absorbent products.
Managing your incontinence is much different than treating your incontinence, but it is the logical first step. After all, you need to find some way to stay dry until you can properly address the issue. For most people, management will consist of a few things – finding a good absorbent product that works, and watching your food and drink intake to see if there are certain triggers that may make your incontinence worse. Management is a first step, but definitely not the last - while both of these can do wonders in helping you control the symptoms of incontinence, they’re not really addressing the true problem.
2. Behavioral Therapy.
Along with diet and exercise, there are several other things you may want to try when treating incontinence. Bladder and bowel retraining – which literally involves training your muscles to hold urine or bowel movements for longer more controlled periods of time – are a good step to try and improvements can often be seen in several weeks. In addition, many people see vast improvements from physical therapy. A qualified physical therapist (usually specialized in treating the pelvic floor) can give you an examination, pinpoint areas of weakness or tension, and provide a customized treatment plan designed to address your muscle strength or weakness. (Need help finding a PT? Check our Specialist Locator.)
If behavioral modifications don’t yield the results your looking for, medications may be your next option. Most medications for bladder control work by relaxing the bladder muscles and preventing the spasms that sometimes accompany overactive bladder and incontinence. These work differently for everyone, and can sometimes produce unwanted side effects though, so talk to your doctor about your options before settling on one.
4. Advanced Therapy Options.
If medications don’t work for you, or you don’t like the side effects that they present, there are still other options. InterStim and Botox injections are two of the more advanced, yet very effective procedures available. InterStim, also known as sacral neuromodulation, works by stimulating the nerves that control your bladder, bowel and rectum, and the muscles related to urinary and anal functions (the sacral nerves). InterStim stimulates these nerves with a mild current, which helps your bladder/bowel/rectum work as they should. Botox, treats overactive bladder symptoms by calming the nerves that trigger the overactive bladder muscle. Both procedures are fairly simple and take about an hour to complete.
For some, surgery may be an option. There are several types of surgeries that address stress urinary incontinence. These procedures are intended to help correct a weakened pelvic floor, where the bladder neck and urethra have dropped. The most popular procedure is to use a sling, which serves as a “hammock” to support the urethra. Surgical slings may be used in both men and women who experience stress incontinence, and also women who have experienced pelvic organ prolapse. There are many types of sling procedures so be sure to talk to your doctor about your options and research what is right for you.
The most important thing to remember when exploring incontinence treatment is that you have options. Talk to your doctor about your wishes and work together to find a treatment that works for you.
If you’re reading this post, you’re likely in the midst of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) and are in some serious need of relief now! We get it – UTIs are no fun – they can be really painful, leave you rushing to the bathroom nonstop, and can even lead to leaks. So it’s no wonder you’re researching quick cures for bladder infections.
The best thing you can do for fast relief from a bladder infection is to is see your doctor, and get an antibiotic.
Antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes bladder infections and are the best way to stop a UTI in its tracks. They typically work pretty quickly, although be sure to take your medication for the full course, even if you’re feeling better sooner than that. So, if you’ve been experiencing a UTI for more than a couple of days, make an appointment with your doctor now to get treatment.
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do for a little relief.
- Drink water – lots of it. Getting in the recommended eight glasses of water per day can help flush the bacteria out of your bladder and make you heal a bit faster. Limit your caffeine or sugary drinks though, as they can irritate you bladder.
- When you gotta go, go. Holding your urine when you really have to go gives time for the bacteria in your system to multiply, making it harder to get rid of.
- Talk to your doctor about over the counter pain relievers. While these won’t cure a UTI, they may help give you a bit of relief while you’re waiting for the antibiotics to treat the infection.
- Rest. Getting enough rest gives your body the energy it needs to be able to fight off an infection. Make sure you are getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Wear loose clothing. Not only will this be more comfortable for you during this time, but it might also prevent bacteria growth. Bacteria grow the quickest in moist, warm environments so ditch the skinny jeans for a week or so and opt for loose trousers, skirts or dresses.
Follow the steps above for quick relief from UTIs.
Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.
Question: I’ve been feeling a really burning sensation when I pee the past few days. What’s happening?
Answer: While a burning sensation can be caused by many things such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or a kidney infection you likely have a UTI, or a bladder infection. UTIs are very common, and are typically caused by bacteria that get into the urinary tract through the urethra.
UTI’s are more common in women, but can occur in men too. Symptoms may include not only a burning sensation, but frequent urges to urinate, abdominal pain, fever, and cloudy, bloody, or strong-smelling urine.
UTIs are generally treated with antibiotics, which can ease symptoms pretty quickly, although prevention is key. Be sure to always drink plenty of water, eat a healthy diet, don’t hold in your urine, urinate after sex, and keep your vaginal area clean. Make sure you’re wiping from front to back to avoid introducing new bacteria into your vaginal area.
It also helps to keep stress to a minimum – while stress doesn’t necessarily cause a UTI, when you’re highly stressed, your immune system doesn’t work quite as well and can lead to you developing illnesses or infections. Practice some stress-reducing activities, such as exercise or meditation.
UTIs can be painful and inconvenient, but with quick attention, they don’t have to keep you down. Talk to your doctor for treatment, and then practice some of the steps above to prevent them from happening in the future.
Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!
Caring for someone else’s needs is a lot of work, and at times, a thankless job – even when it’s for someone you love. Learning the ins and outs of the various conditions your loved one may be suffering from, figuring out how to navigate Medicare and hospital paperwork, managing the physical toll, and even the financial strain is enough to make anyone second guess why they took on the job in the first place.
But finding a community of people you can lean on can be a real lifesaver. A great community can connect you with others who have experienced what you’re going through. You’ll find people who can answer the questions you may be dealing with, and those you can just vent to about the rough time you’ve been having lately. They can share tips and resources, knowledge and compassion.
Living in such an online world makes it easier than ever to find a group you can lean on. Message boards and forums are a great place to connect with a lot of people like you, and to get and share a lot of information in one place.
So what are you waiting for? Here are some great groups to check out. Most of these allow you to poke around a bit without posting anything, which is a great way to learn a lot and also get a feel for the community. When you’re ready, share your own voice and start reaping the rewards that come with having a large group of caring people to lean on.
Online Communities For Caregivers:
Know of some other great forums for caregivers to connect? Share them in the comments!
Choosing to take on the role of Caregiver can be daunting. The paperwork alone is overwhelming, let alone the emotional, physical and financial toll it can take. Where can you turn for help? Luckily, there are a number of great resources out there to help you navigate the various tasks of caregiving. See below for a list of organizations that offer help and support.
Useful Online Resources For Caregivers
For a more complete list of resources, visit the Caregiver Action Network’s comprehensive list.
If you’re new to this whole incontinence game, you may wonder how on earth you’re going to manage. Preventing leaks, keeping things clean, and navigating the isles of adult absorbent products at the grocery store are all probably top of mind right now, and rightly so. These are often the first steps people take when trying to manage bladder leaks.
But what comes next? And how do you even begin to tackle those items we just listed above?
We have you covered. NAFC has dedicated a whole section of our website to just getting started (which, to be honest, is often the hardest part). We’ve outlined the things you should do before you even make your first appointment to see your doctor (which you should do anyway, even if you complete all the steps we outline in our Getting Started Guide).
This guide covers the basic steps, from how to keep a bladder diary, finding the right absorbent product, practicing pelvic floor strengthening moves, retraining your bladder or bowel, and a look at the vast array of options you have available to you for managing incontinence.
So take a look around, and start implementing some of these tips! Begin with the first step: finding an immediate way to manage your condition with absorbent products. Then move on to the other helpful tips.
Ever tried to learn about a complicated condition? It may seem like bladder and bowel problems are simple, but sometimes you need a little help understanding how things work, how to manage certain conditions, and the steps to take to avoid them.
That’s where the NAFC Learning Library comes in. Need some help knowing how to manage Overactive Bladder? We’ve got it. Want some tips on how to prevent bedwetting? Check out our video on that. Want to better understand nocturia, or learn how to insert a catheter? Want to learn more about kegels, or how to care for a pessary? We can help!
We’ve got the videos you need to help you along in your journey toward a Life Without Leaks. Our collection of educational videos is growing all the time. Check out the NAFC Learning Library to better understand your condition and find ways to treat it.
Once both my kids were in elementary school full time, I finally started working out. I became a runner, and devoted most mornings after they were in school to jogging through the neighborhood. I entered races and started doing small 5Ks, until I finally worked my way up to a full marathon last year. Things were going great and I was feeling strong and happy.
So, imagine my surprise, after years of being an avid runner, to suddenly start experiencing bladder leaks. My kids were not little anymore – they were both in high school at this point and I thought that I bypassed this type of problem that usually accompanies childbirth.
I spoke to my doctor, and found out that, to my surprise, this problem often accompanies serious runners too. Turns out that pounding the pavement every day isn’t so great for your pelvic floor. In fact, my doctor told me that up to 30% of female runners experience incontinence while running.
My doctor said there are lots of things that can weaken the pelvic floor over the years; childbirth, age, and surgeries can all take their toll (I unfortunately check all three boxes). Add to that running several miles per week, and I saw how my activity was contributing to the problem.
I wasn't ready to give up running, and luckily my doctor didn't think I had to. While there are many therapies available (medication, surgery, exercise), he started me on a regimen of kegel exercises. I do them first thing in the morning, and 3 other times throughout the day. He also recommended that I try some other behavioral tactics: limit my fluid intake right before my run, make sure to empty my bladder before running, and try planning a route that has some bathroom stops along the way.
These changes have been helping me a lot and while there might come a time that I consider something like surgery, for now, it helps to know that I’m able to take matters into my own hands and manage my bladder leaks without stopping the activities I love.
I'm glad I opened up about this condition and can continue my passion!
Sally S., Atlanta, GA
Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.
Question: What’s the difference between IBS and Crohn’s Disease? Could I have both?
Answer: While both of these conditions seem to have similar symptoms, they are in fact different, and, yes, it is possible for someone to have both at the same time. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two:
Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that affects parts of the digestive tract. Symptoms often include diarrhea, a frequent need to move your bowels, stomach pain, and bloating (all symptoms of IBS). However, with Crohn’s disease, patients also may notice things like vomiting, tiredness, weight loss, fever, or even bleeding. It’s not certain what causes Crohn’s disease, but most experts believe it is an abnormality in the immune system that can trigger the condition. Chron’s disease is also more common in those with a family history of the disease.
IBS (also called “spastic colon”) carries similar symptoms to Crohn’s disease – cue the diarrhea, frequent trips to the bathroom, and stomach pain. However, treatment for Crohn’s disease and IBS are different so it pays to be examined for both so that you understand what is causing your symptoms and you can treat it appropriately. Testing for both conditions can be done with a physical exam, blood test, and usually a colonoscopy or other type of endoscopy procedure.
If you experience any symptoms related to IBS or Crohn’s disease, make an appointment with your doctor today to get tested.
Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!
Kegels can help improve your pelvic floor strength and prevent or reduce issues like incontinence. Learn how to do kegels and, how to do them consistently, with these National Association For Continence reviewed kegel apps.Read More
What Is The Pelvic Floor And Why Should I Relax It?
The pelvic floor is a web of muscles that acts as a sling, supporting your bladder, bowel and uterus. It is responsible for helping you control your bladder and bowel, and also plays a role in sexual intercourse. Many women experience pelvic floor issues, such as incontinence, as a result of childbirth, obesity, chronic constipation, or other strains put on the pelvic floor. Often, a weakening of the pelvic floor causes these issues, but did you know that having a pelvic floor that is too tense can also create problems? Incontinence, trouble emptying your bladder, and even pain during sex can be signs of a pelvic floor that is too tense.
Luckily, pelvic floor tension is a problem that you can do something about. Below are some simple exercises that may help you to relax your pelvic floor muscles. These can all be done in your home, discretely, and with no equipment necessary.
Note: It is always recommended to consult a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to performing exercises related to the pelvic floor. A physical therapist can provide you with a proper diagnosis and put you on custom treatment plan just for you! Find a physical therapist in your area here!
Diaphragmatic Breathing For Pelvic Floor Relaxation:
The diaphragm works in synergy with the pelvic floor and helps to promote muscle relaxation. This is important for decreasing pain and promoting optimal muscle function.
- Place one hand on your chest and another hand on your belly, just below your rib cage.
- Take a deep breath in to the count of three, and then exhale to the count of four.
- When you inhale, your pelvic floor relaxes, and as you exhale, your pelvic floor returns to its resting state.
- Practice this breathing for 5-10 minutes each day.
Note: You’ll know that you are using your diaphragm correctly if you feel the hand on your belly rise and fall.
Pelvic Girdle Stretches For Pelvic Floor Relaxation
All of the following positions are great for practicing diaphragmatic breathing!
Happy Baby Pose:
- Lie on your back.
- Open your knees wider than your chest and bring them up towards your armpits. You may hold your legs with your arms behind your knees or at your ankles, but try to keep your ankles over your knees.
- You can either hold this position or gently rock on your back from side to side
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching.
- Gently bow forward, moving your torso downwards, between your thighs. Keep your arms stretched out long and in front of you.
- Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together and knees out to the sides.
- This should be a relaxing position. If you feel a pulling along your inner thighs or in your pubic bones, place pillows under your knees for support.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Place your left ankle on your right knee, like a figure four.
- Pull your right thigh toward your chest to feel a stretch on the outside of your left hip.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
I’ve experienced bladder leaks for about 5 years. After I had my second daughter, I started noticing leakage here and there. I always assumed it would go away, but it never did. I spent the first year attributing it all to childbirth, and let’s be honest, I didn’t really have the time to worry about myself much with a newborn baby. But, after my daughter’s first year, what I thought was a problem that would clear up on it’s own continued, and I began to take more notice. The leaks were more frequent, not less, and I started to feel ashamed about it. I’d never heard any of my friends talking about this side effect of motherhood – why was it happening to me?
I finally decided to visit my OB/Gyn to see what he recommended and he referred me to a Physical Therapist who solely focuses on the pelvic floor (yes! there really is such a thing!). The PT did a thorough evaluation and said the cause of my problem was due to a weakened pelvic floor that most likely occurred during childbirth.
I’ve never been what you would call athletic. I have a gym membership but don’t visit all that often. I sit at work all day, and get most of my exercise running around after my two girls. And God knows I could stand to lose a bit more of the baby weight. So when my PT said that she was going to put me on a workout program to get things back in shape, I was a bit worried. But her workout was low intensity – lots of walking to get my weight down (which would help put less pressure on my bladder and pelvic floor) and simple exercises that would strengthen not just my pelvic floor, but my core muscles too.
After 3 months of doing the workout I had lost about 8 pounds and my stomach and glut muscles were noticeably more toned. I also was noticing much fewer leaks and was able to control my bladder much better than before. And after 6 months of performing the workout, the leaks had stopped all together.
I can’t tell you what a difference this simple workout routine has made in my life – not only do I feel stronger and more in control, but it’s given me more confidence in the ability to change my body both in look and in function. I’m so proud of myself and my only regret is that I didn’t do something sooner. Ladies – if you’re experiencing bladder leaks, visit a PT and get on a workout program! It will literally change your life. It did for me!
Kimberly V., Englewood, CO
Question: I hear about kegels for women all the time, but what about men? Can kegels benefit men too?
Expert Answer: Absolutely! Kegels are an important part of a woman’s workout routine to prevent or manage bladder leaks, but they are just as important for men. In men, kegels can help with fecal incontinence, overactive bladder, urinary retention, erectile functioning and even orgasms. Interested in seeing the benefits for yourself? Here’s how to do them:
How To Do Kegels For Men
There are two types of kegel exercises that you can do to strengthen and tone your pelvic floor muscles.
Long Contractions work on the supportive strength of the muscles. To perform a long kegel contraction, tighten your pelvic muscles and hold for 5 seconds. This may be difficult at first – don’t worry if you can’t hold the contraction for the full five seconds. With practice you’ll be able to work up to this.
Overtime, work your way up to 10 seconds per contraction. Be sure to rest for 10 seconds in between each contraction – knowing how to relax your muscle is as important as the contraction.
Short contractions work the fast twitch muscles that work quickly to stop the flow of urine and prevent leaks. To perform a short contraction, tighten your muscles quickly, then release, and repeat.
When Should I Perform Them?
Like any muscle, you don’t want to do too much too soon. Aim for 5 reps of both short and long contractions, 3x per day on your first day. As you gain more confidence and strength, work your way up to 10 reps, 3x per day of each.
Continue practicing kegels and you should see improvements in 3-6 months. And, if you find that you need some help with kegels, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to provide you with more personal instruction, which may include biofeedback therapy.
If you’ve never thought much about your pelvic floor, you’re not alone. Most people don’t give this section of the body much consideration until it’s too late – they become incontinent, or worse, suffer a pelvic organ prolapse as a result of pregnancy, obesity or chronic constipation. But the pelvic floor is one of the most important muscles in the body, and ignoring it can have potentially great consequences later in life.
Let’s begin with a little bit of anatomy. The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports some pretty major organs – your bladder, rectum and uterus in women, and your bladder, rectum and prostate in men, to be exact. The muscles stretch across the pubic area from front to back and from side to side. They are typically very firm and thick, but are also flexible and are able to move up and down (kind of like a trampoline).
These muscles are very important in supporting the organs listed above, and are essential in maintaining control over our bladder and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles also play a large role in sexual function for men and women, and provide support for the baby during pregnancy.
Over the course of our life, many things can compromise the stability of the pelvic floor, leading to things like incontinence, or pelvic organ prolapse. Obesity, childbirth, chronic coughing, chronic constipation, or other things that put strain on the pelvic floor can cause it to weaken. And with age there is often a weakening of the connective tissues of the pelvic floor.
What You Can Do To Protect The Pelvic Floor
The good news is that much like the other muscles in the body, the pelvic floor can be trained and strengthened over time. By learning to strengthen the pelvic floor, you may be able to prevent or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence or prolapse.
There are many exercises you can do to strengthen the pelvic floor. Kegels are great at isolating the pelvic floor muscles, but because the pelvic floor connects to many of the muscles that create your “core” (your diaphragm, transversus abdonminis, and multifidus), you also need to incorporate workouts that build strength in those areas as well. And remember – it’s not just about tightening. We need to ensure that our muscles are neither too tight, nor too loose. Learning how to relax the pelvic floor is just as important as learning how to strengthen it, since a pelvic floor that is too tight can create weakness and cause problems too. Like any other muscle in the body, we are looking for our muscles to be strong and flexible.
Symptoms Of Pelvic Floor Tension
Inability to empty your bladder completely
If you experience these symptoms, we recommend that you see a pelvic floor physical therapist prior to starting any strengthening program. Performing strengthening exercises on a pelvic floor that is already too tight can create additional problems, or make any existing issues worse.
Symptoms Of Pelvic Floor Weakness
Stool and gas incontinence
Pelvic organ prolapse, or the dropping of your organs through your vagina
Pelvic girdle pain
Learning how to strengthen, and relax the pelvic muscles can help with pelvic floor weakness.
Want tips on how to improve your pelvic floor strength? Check out these great resources:
Note: If you are experiencing symptoms of either pelvic floor weakness or tension, we strongly advise you to see a physical therapist specialized in pelvic floor therapy. A physical therapist can help provide you with a diagnosis and put you on a custom treatment program specific to your needs.