Incontinence can be a difficult and challenging condition to manage. It can prevent individuals from socialising, going to events due to the fear of leaking and rapidly reduce a person’s quality of life.
Although incontinence is an unpleasant condition for anyone to live with, you should remember that there is likely a method for you that can make incontinence easier to manage. As the bladder is controlled by muscles, it can be trained both physically and mentally. One method of treatment you can try is bladder training exercises to strengthen your bladder and get yourself used to waiting longer before toilet breaks. Bladder training for incontinence can lengthen the amount of time between bathroom trips, increase the amount of urine your bladder can hold and improve your control over the urge to urinate.
Bladder control training is commonly used for stress incontinence, urge incontinence or a combination of both. Many studies conducted over the years support the success of bladder training programs for both women and men experiencing symptoms of urge incontinence and urgency associated with an overactive bladder. A study conducting research on the success of bladder training in 2008 followed six patients suffering from urge incontinence who were reviewed between 1 and 5 years. When examined after being provided with in-patient treatment and bladder training, there was an improvement rate of 85%.
The most popular methods of bladder retraining that are recommended by Doctors include the following:
Your pelvic muscles support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. Kegel exercises can help to strengthen the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. They hold the muscles in place and help control the flow of urine. For women, pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic muscles. For men, prostate surgery can weaken the pelvic muscles. Your risk of having weak pelvic floor muscles increases as you age and if you are overweight. Weak pelvic muscles can cause you to leak urine. Luckily, there are exercises that can strengthen your pelvic muscles. They can help you regain control of your bladder and stop involuntary leaks. The exercises are the most popular form of treatment recommended by Doctors and specialists. Marsha Guest, assistant professor of gynaecology at Yale School of Medicine expresses her support of the method, asserting, “Everyone should do Kegel exercises. Everyone. There’s no one who shouldn’t actively work on strengthening the pelvic floor”.
How to do Kegel Exercises
When practising Kegel exercises, it is important to ensure you have found the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, you can stop urination in midstream. The muscles you are using for this are the pelvic floor muscles. To perfect your technique, tighten your pelvic floor muscles. You should hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful you do not develop a habit of flexing the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. The method can be improved through breathing freely and calmly during the exercises, rather than holding your breath. You should aim to repeat this exercise three times a day for maximum success.
It is easier to start off doing Kegel exercises lying down when you first start practising the exercise. However, once they become second nature you can begin doing them throughout the day during activities such as driving or next time you are sat watching the TV.
It not likely that you will notice a change in your muscles straight away. It is important to know where you are before you start, so you can keep it for reference and track your improvement. It can take 4 to 8 weeks of daily exercise for you to notice an improvement.
Practice creating a mental distraction
When the bladder contracts at inappropriate times, try to distract your mind by concentrating on something other than the toilet and emptying your bladder. You could focus on the list of things you have to do for the day or create a shopping list for example. Breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques can also be effective distractions.
Schedule your bathroom visits
It is important to determine how frequently you use the bathroom so you can start to try and narrow this down. If you go to visit the bathroom in 1 and a half hour intervals for example, during retraining you should try and go every hour and 45 minutes. Even if you don’t feel like you desperately need the toilet, you should still try and go to train the brain and body. After a set number of days, gradually increase the amount of time between bathroom breaks. A good way of keeping track of this is to keep a bladder diary which notes how often you visit the toilet during a day. You can visit our blog on creating a bladder diary for guidance on how to do this.
Practice delaying urination slightly
Some people who have urge incontinence can learn to put off urination when they feel the urge. This can be done through methods such as concentrating on your breathing until the urge goes away. You can try and increase the time you resist urination gradually. For example, start by trying to hold your urine for 5 minutes, and when this becomes easy, you can try to increase the time to 10 minutes. When you feel the urge to urinate before your time is up, you can try relaxation techniques.
To improve your success with bladder retraining, you should try making other lifestyle changes alongside this. These changes can include avoiding consuming liquids that increase urination, such as caffeinated drinks like sodas, coffee, and tea. Additional lifestyle changes you can make include drinking less fluid before bedtime, urinating before you go to bed and as soon as you get up in the morning.
For support and inspiration, you can read some personal stories about how other sufferers manage incontinence here.