Updated: Jun 10
From rushing to get to the bathroom in time, to leaking when you cough or sneeze, to getting up in the middle of the night to pee, it can seem like your bladder is on your mind 24-7.
In order to get the right treatment to strengthen your bladder, you FIRST need to know the cause of your bladder symptoms. Are you leaking, or just going to the bathroom frequently? If you are leaking, do you leak with coughing, sneezing and/or exercising, or just on the way to the bathroom? Or all of the above?
If you only do Kegels, chances are you'll be very disappointed. This is because Kegels only address one thing: pelvic floor muscle weakness. Often to help all these different symptoms, you need several other additional strategies.
Let's pinpoint the two main types of bladder problems women experience, so you know how to get the right help.
Two main types of bladder problems in women
The two most common types of bladder problems are stress incontinence and urge incontinence. It is also very common to have both types at the same time, and this is called mixed incontinence.
Now, I know what you're saying: "I don't have incontinence. That is what my Grandma had. I don't have that."
And you may be right. If, for instance, your only bladder complaint is that you have to rush to the bathroom, or you use the bathroom too frequently, you may have an overactive bladder.
But, if you leak any urine at all, even just a few drops, the medical community will tell you that you have incontinence. It's a label that many of us are uncomfortable with, and it's a label that prevents a lot of women from getting the help they need.
Knowledge is power. Figuring out which type of bladder problem you have is crucial to finding the right solution, so consider learning the medical lingo below so you know how to move forward in getting help to get rid of your bladder symptoms:
What are the main treatments for stress and urge incontinence?
Because stress and urge incontinence have different causes, their treatments differ quite a bit. This is why it is so important that you figure out what is troubling your own bladder, so you know what to do about it. And my whole goal is to help you navigate these differences and get your bladder back on track, either through traditional telehealth PT, or through my new VIRTUAL pelvic health Fitness Challenges 💪
Because stress incontinence is usually due to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles and other core muscles, as well as sluggish timing and coordination between these muscles, this is where Kegels and other pelvic girdle muscle exercises can help tremendously. Following healthy bladder habits, as well as using good body mechanics while lifting, coughing and sneezing are also really helpful strategies to learn.
Check out my brand new virtual pelvic Fitness Challenge called Six Weeks to Strong! 💪, where you can learn all of these exercises and strategies through discreet weekly Zoom classes right from home! 🏠
Urge incontinence is caused by an overactive bladder—the bladder contracts too strongly and/or too often. While pelvic floor muscle weakness can contribute to urge incontinence, it is not usually the main culprit. Treatment focuses on retraining the bladder, and can also include lifestyle changes, strengthening exercises, electrical stimulation and possibly medications.
You can learn all these strategies and more in my new upcoming class, Purge the Urge.
Pre-enrollment is now open for class starting in July 2022!
If you prefer 1-on-1 coaching for your bladder problems, you can schedule a virtual appointment with me and I will help you get a plan of action in place.
Still unsure of which type of bladder problem you may have? Take this simple quiz. It only takes a few moments to complete and will let you know exactly what type of bladder problem you're dealing with.
Can lifestyle changes help my bladder symptoms?
Absolutely! The following lifestyle changes have been shown to improve overactive bladder symptoms and bladder leakage:
Drink enough water.
The bladder is an organ and functions best when there is a moderate amount of water for it to process; too much or too little over time can contribute to bladder control problems.
Limit the intake of drinks that can irritate the bladder.
These include drinks with caffeine and/or carbonation, acidic drinks such as orange juice, as well as alcoholic drinks. Water is best—boring but true!
Smoking can irritate the bladder lining, causing more frequent urination, and it is also the most important risk factor for bladder cancer.
A full bowel pushes against the bladder and can affect control, and chronic straining can overstretch the pelvic floor muscles, making them less effective
Maintain a healthy weight.
Extra weight can put pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles, contributing to incontinence.
Strengthen pelvic floor and core muscles
If there is weakness of the pelvic floor muscles, then strengthening exercises such as Kegels and abdominal exercises can help.
Avoid straining when voiding,
This goes for bowel movements too. Habitual straining can overstretch and weaken the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments over time, making them less effective in helping you control your bladder.
Manage chronic coughs
Chronic coughing over time can have the same effect as repetitive straining: it can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments over time, diminishing their effectiveness in helping control your bladder.
Now that you know which type(s) of bladder problems you have, it's time to take action to strengthen it! 💪
About the Author:
Angela is the owner of My Pelvic Therapy, PLLC and a licensed physical therapist. Prior to starting her telehealth private practice, she worked as a senior physical therapist for 17 years at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, specializing in helping adults of all ages overcome their pelvic floor challenges. She received her physical therapy degree from Duke University, biology degree from University of Illinois, and is a lifelong learner of all things PT.