Leaking urine can be embarrassing, and sometimes, it can feel like you’re suffering alone. Urinary incontinence is really common — especially among women. More than 25 million American adults suffer from incontinence, many of them women in or near menopause.
The good news is that urinary incontinence is medically treatable. Even better, there are things you can do on your own at home to decrease incontinence symptoms, including exercises aimed at strengthening the muscles that support your bladder.
At Primary Care Associates, our team is skilled at developing incontinence treatment plans based on each patient’s unique needs for the most effective results. They want you to know the causes of this common medical problem and how exercise can help manage its symptoms.
Why incontinence happens
Urinary continence tends to happen a lot more as we get older, typically as a result of factors like:
- Hormone changes (including menopause-related changes)
- Being overweight
- Having had multiple pregnancies
- Having delivered vaginally at least once
All these factors affect our pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder and help control its function.
We can also develop temporary incontinence symptoms due to a urinary tract infection, constipation, or even certain foods or substances, like caffeine or spicy foods that irritate the bladder.
Exercises to manage your incontinence
Since your pelvic floor muscles are deeply linked with incontinence symptoms, it makes sense that exercises need to target these muscles to impact urine leakage. Named for the gynecologist who developed them, Kegel exercises are the most popular pelvic floor exercises, with several variations.
The keys to getting the best results are simple: Do these exercises daily and ensure you’re fully engaging your pelvic floor muscles. The easiest way to locate your pelvic floor muscles is to imagine you’re urinating and you want to stop mid-flow. The muscles you would clench to stop urinating are your pelvic floor muscles. (Just don’t stop your urine flow in real life — it could lead to bladder or kidney damage.)
Sitting Kegels — fast and slow versions
While sitting down, engage your pelvic floor muscles and clench them. Repeat the clenching action in rapid succession to a count of 10. Do three sets per day.
For the slow version, clench your muscles and hold for up to 10 seconds. Repeat ten times up to three times per day. A bonus of sitting Kegels: You can do them pretty much anywhere — even at your desk at work or while waiting in traffic.
Standing Kegels use the same clenching action, but instead of clenching your pelvic muscles when sitting, you do it while standing. Just be sure you’re using your pelvic floor muscles and not your tummy muscles.
An exercise you can do while lying down on your back? Yes, please! Again, you use the same clenching action to engage your pelvic muscles, holding for a count of 10 and repeating up to three times per day. If your lower back hurts, you can bend your knees. It also helps to rest your hand on your belly to ensure you’re not clenching your abdominal muscles instead of your pelvic muscles.
What about aerobic exercises?
While aerobic activities might not affect incontinence symptoms directly, they’re still crucial to your health. Plus, when combined with healthy eating, aerobic activity — like walking, biking, swimming, or running — can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Less belly fat means less pressure on your bladder, which could also help reduce urinary leakage symptoms, too.
Bottom line: You don’t need to give up on aerobics, but if you want to manage your incontinence symptoms, pelvic floor muscle exercises are essential.
Get help for your leaky bladder
Kegel exercises are simple, easy to do, and require no special equipment. Plus, the sitting and standing version can be done pretty much anywhere. The only thing you need to do is remember to do them regularly. Many women find that with regular use, Kegels improve their symptoms in as little as 4-6 weeks.
Of course, if you need additional help managing urinary incontinence, the team at Primary Care Associates is ready with therapies tuned to your needs. To find out how you can take control of your bladder leakage symptoms, book an appointment online at our offices in Frederick or Clarksburg, Maryland.