A common condition

 

So you are a woman in mid-fifties. You’ve had two or possibly three children, you enjoy exercise and relative good health but there is no way you ever imagine you can or will run or do any jumping because you can’t quite control your bladder.

Or you are a woman in your forties – you’ve had one or several children and have joined the local basketball, netball or soccer team but are worried about controlling your bladder when you play. Fortunately, you can wear a pad and there is a bathroom in the facility you can utilize.

Sound familiar?

While these scenarios are all too common, the great news is that it doesn’t have to be like this – there are a number of things you can do to help.

Incontinence is the accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder or bowel motion from the bowel.  It affects many people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. Women are more prone to incontinence earlier in life than men, typically because of pregnancy and childbirth.

Stress incontinence is urine leakage during physical exertion or effort such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising, walking or lifting.

Poor bladder and bowel control affect your quality of life. The effects of incontinence may go unnoticed or be ignored and may worsen over time. Incontinence can have a big effect on social activities and self- esteem. It can affect your ability to want to go out and make it difficult to exercise.

There are many factors involved in the treatment of incontinence including diet, fluid intake, medication, and exercise.

 

A vital strategy : Strengthen the pelvic floor muscles

 

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that act as a hammock at the base of the pelvis.  These muscles support the bladder, bowel and, for a woman, the uterus. It is therefore critical to keep the pelvic floor strong. When women go through menopause, hormone changes can further affect bladder control. Pelvic floor muscle training can help to lessen the effects of incontinence.

If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, it is important to focus on strengthening them.  Strong pelvic floor muscles help with incontinence, and also protect against back pain and improve core stability. Strong pelvic floor muscles reduce the barriers to exercise and improve your confidence and wellbeing. In addition, improving your posture can also help to activate the pelvic floor muscles and improve their function.  Below is an exercise sequence to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, if performed regularly.

 

Pelvic floor muscle exercise sequence:


1. Begin by lying down or sitting up with back support. Relax the muscles in your thighs, bottom and stomach.

2. Squeeze the muscles around your front passage as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine.

3. Squeeze the muscles around your back passage as if trying to stop passing wind.

4. Identify the muscles that contract when you do these contractions and then relax.

5. Try holding the inward squeeze for longer each time you try (for 3 seconds and then up to 10 seconds) before relaxing.

6. Continue to breathe normally while you squeeze when lifting up (not pushing down)

7. Repeat this up to 10 times.


Remember, don’t let incontinence hold you back from living life to its fullest.