Because the bladder is controlled by muscles, it can be trained. While training the bladder and sphincter muscles is more challenging than working out your quadriceps and biceps, it can be done. Plus, there is good news: many studies over the years support the success of bladder retraining programs for both women and men experiencing symptoms of urge incontinence and urgency associated with overactive bladder (OAB).
As with any training, you’ll want to know where you are before you start, so you have something to measure against. With bladder retraining this will most likely take the form of a bladder diary. You will note such things as the times of urination, if you were able to completely empty your bladder, time between bathroom trips, as well as diet information that may be impacting your condition.
While your physician will prescribe a program right for you, most bladder retraining methods share similar techniques:
Schedule Bathroom Visits
Once you’ve determined how frequently you use the bathroom, you add 15 minutes to that time. Let’s say you go to the bathroom ever hour. During retraining, you will aim to go every hour and fifteen minutes. Even if you don’t have to go, you still want to make the trip to the bathroom. This trains the brain and body. After a set number of days, gradually increase the amount of time between bathroom breaks.
Easier said than done. But when you feel the need to go, try holding off for at least 5 minutes. Then 10. And so on until you can make it 3-4 hours between urination. The key will be to stay on schedule, which keeps the training on track.
Perform Kegel Exercises
By strengthening the muscles that are directly and indirectly involved with urination, you will be able to better control when you have to go. For a full guide on how to do kegel exercises, click here. And men, Kegels are for you, too - click here for a guide specifically to help you do them as well.
Sometimes, it’s the simplest of things that can make a massive difference. To improve your success with bladder retraining, you can also try these tips:
- Limit beverages that increase urination, including caffeinated drinks like sodas, coffee, and tea (click here to see more about diet and exercise tips for bladder control)
- Drink less fluid before bedtime
- Go to the bathroom before you go to bed at night, and as soon as you get up in the morning