This week is World Continence Awareness Week and is an opportunity to talk about an issue that is very common and effects both women and men. The aim is to highlight the impact of urinary incontinence can have on quality of life and to encourage those living to seek help rather than live in silence. Urinary incontinence is a more common issue than you would think however it is NOT normal. You should not leak urine when coughing, sneezing, lifting, exercising or during intercourse. In addition, you should be able to control the urge to empty the bladder and not keep going to the toilet “just in case”. Fortunately, there is a relatively straight forward solution in the majority of cases.
The statistics are probably higher in women than men for multiple reasons. One in three women may suffer from urinary incontinence in their lifetime with that ratio being one in two women after menopause and forty-five percent of women may have urinary incontinence at seven weeks post birth. Many women do not report these symptoms due to a multitude of reasons so put up with poor bladder control and accidents for years.
In men, urinary symptoms are the most common side effect after prostate cancer treatment especially in the early weeks after surgery. These include leaking urine that is not controlled, passing urine frequently, a sudden urge to go to the toilet quickly, needing to go to the toilet quickly and leaking urine before you get there, difficulty emptying the bladder fully and getting up more than twice at night to pass urine.
If you are suffering from urinary incontinence a visit to a Chartered Physiotherapist who specialises in incontinence issues is worth considering. These physiotherapists assess the pelvic floor muscles that work like a hammock to support the pelvic organs and like any other muscle in the body they can be strengthened if weak with appropriate exercises. Your visit will include a detailed assessment analysing the symptoms, assessing pelvic floor muscles, identifying habits that maybe contributing to the symptoms and prescribing a simple individualised exercise program to improve pelvic floor strength and function.
Tips to help with urinary symptoms;
- Learn where your pelvic floor muscles are and how to contract them properly. Get a rehabilitation program that is appropriate to your ability and work with a Chartered Physiotherapist to progress this achieve your goals.
- Avoid caffeine as this is a bladder irritant. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, chocolate. Try cutting down or change to decaffeinated drinks.
- Water is the best drink followed by herbal teas, decaffeinated options.
- Alcohol can increase the amount of urine produced therefore it is worth avoiding.
- Avoid carbonated, fizzy or acidic drinks.
- Drink plenty of fluids every day – aim for two litres (average 6-8cups). Not drinking enough water will make the urine more acidic therefore causing more irritation.
- Maintain a healthy weight and eat a balanced diet. Your diet should be rich in non-processed foods and fibre as this will help avoid constipation. Constipation can put pressure on the bladder and make urinary problems worse.
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and this will also help with bowel function.