What are the common causes of bladder problems?
Urinary incontinence is very common. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men experience problems at some time in their life. Genuine stress incontinence is the commonest cause of urinary incontinence in women.
Types of incontinence:
- Stress Incontinence, when the bladder leaks if put under pressure, perhaps during strenuous activity or even a cough or a sneeze.
- Urge Incontinence, when there is a sudden need to go to the toilet and in the rush there is a leakage of urine.
Women can be especially prone to developing incontinence when the pelvic floor muscles are damaged or made weaker following difficult births, heavy babies, chronic constipation, being overweight and chronic coughing. Continence problems are also more common in women after the menopause and those who smoke.
Other bladder problems may include rushing to the toilet – urgency, going frequently, and getting up in the night
Bowel issues include:
Are there exercises I can do that will help?
Conservative therapy is usually the 1st approach for the majority of women and men, using a number of modalities including pelvic floor muscle exercises, biofeedback, vaginal cones, electrical muscle stimulation and real time ultrasound scanning of the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are a very important component of treatment, and are easy to carry out on a daily basis. Carrying out these simple exercises will keep your muscles strong and give you more control over your bladder and bowel. The exercises should be practised regularly and the success rate is up to 70%.
What alternative treatment remedies are there?
The most important element of your treatment will be the pelvic floor muscle exercises. However there are certain adjuncts to this treatment which include:
- Real time ultrasound scanning of the pelvic floor muscles
- Electrical stimulation to the pelvic floor muscles, if indicated
- Vaginal cones, if indicated
- Bladder training to train the bladder to hold larger volumes and bladder drills
- Advice on fluid intake for a healthier bladder
- Ensuring you avoid constipation to avoid straining
- Bowel exercises and retraining
- Advice for stopping constipation
Are there any lifestyle changes that I can make?
There are several lifestyle changes that you could make:
- Drinking: Make sure that you drink enough – 1½ litres or 3 pints a day. Avoid too many fizzy drinks and caffeine based drinks (tea, coffee, and cola).
- Constipation: this must be avoided as it can make bladder problems worse and can contribute to prolapse problems with repeated straining.
- Weight: Try to keep to a healthy weight.
- Smoking: a persistent smoker’s cough can exacerbate stress incontinence and smoking affects the blood supply to the muscles and this can reduce their strength.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises
How can I prevent the problem returning?
Be prepared that it will take a while for you to see results; it may be 3 to 6 months before your symptoms resolve. As with any normal muscle strengthening regime you must continue the exercises to maintain your improvement.
If you do have any problems it is important that you seek advice from your GP, or Specialist Chartered Physiotherapist.
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