A lack of bladder control is something many women are too embarrassed to talk about. Leaks can happen when you least expect it, making things awkward around friends or coworkers. Frequent urination is equally frustrating, since an overactive bladder can wake you up multiple times in the night.
But you don’t have to live like this forever! With the help of physiotherapy, you can strengthen the muscles that surround your bladder and say farewell to bladder issues.
How physiotherapy improves bladder control
As women get older, they might develop bladder problems such as leaks or sudden, frequent urges to urinate. These issues often arise when the muscles surrounding the bladder start to weaken. The pelvic floor is a muscle group deep in your core that regulates the release of the bowels and urine flow. Many things can weaken the pelvic floor, such as childbirth, age, constipation and hormonal changes.
Physiotherapy helps women regain control over their bladders by strengthening the pelvic floor and nearby muscle groups. Developing thick, strong muscles can reduce bladder leaks and the urge to frequently urinate. Exercises that target the pelvic floor restore muscle mass that was lost over time. Stronger muscles mean you have more bladder control, which can ease feelings of embarrassment and improve your overall quality of life.
Besides the pelvic floor, other muscle groups play a role in bladder control. A physical therapist may also recommend exercises that strengthen the hips and pelvis because they’re in close proximity to the pelvic floor. Others focus on strengthening the glutes with squats. The workout regimen may also include exercises for the abdominal muscles. Targeting nearby muscle groups can indirectly strengthen the pelvic floor, which is beneficial for patients who have a hard time locating their pelvic floor muscles.
Physiotherapy isn’t just about building strength, though. Women with bladder problems can reduce their symptoms by learning how to coordinate the pelvic floor with the inner core muscles. Some exercises teach women how to engage the diaphragm and pelvic floor at the same time. Other physiotherapy techniques focus on behavioral changes, such as improved posture and conscious control over the bladder.
Exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor
Kegel exercises are the most effective approach to regaining bladder control. Many people have heard of Kegel exercises but don’t quite understand how they work. The exercise builds strength around the bladder by repeatedly contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor. Once you locate the pelvic floor, Kegels are very easy to do. The exercise requires zero equipment, and you can complete Kegel sets anytime, anywhere.
Here are the simple steps for completing Kegel exercises:
- Before doing Kegel exercises, locate the pelvic floor and practice controlling it. Next time you go to the bathroom, try disrupting the flow of urine mid-stream. The muscles you engage make up the pelvic floor.
- To begin the Kegel exercise, lie down in a comfortable position. This position is recommended when you first learn Kegels, although you can complete the exercise sitting or standing up, as well.
- Squeeze the pelvic floor and hold it for three seconds. Let your pelvic floor completely relax for three more seconds.
- Repeat step three until you’ve completed 10 repetitions in one set. Complete two or three sets each day.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of Kegel exercises, you can combine them with deep breathing to coordinate the diaphragm and pelvic floor. Coordination among the various muscle groups will improve control over the bladder and further reduce symptoms.
Here’s how to practice coordinating the diaphragm and pelvic floor:
- Take a deep breath. As you breathe in, feel your lower abdomen slowly expand with air. During the inhale, allow your pelvic floor to relax.
- Slowly exhale. The lower abdomen will sink back down as you expel the air. At the same time, squeeze and hold the pelvic floor until you breathe in again.
- Repeat steps one and two until you complete a set of 10 repetitions. Much like Kegels, this is a simple exercise you can practice anywhere, at any time.
As with any muscle in the body, the pelvic floor takes time to become stronger. Women who practice these exercises on a regular basis should start to see improvements in their bladder symptoms within a few weeks or months.
Core strengthening is a popular approach, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Luckily, there are plenty of bladder control supplements that help reduce leakage and promote normal bladder functioning. Whether it’s a supplement or exercise regimen, every woman can find a way to reclaim control over their bladder and quality of life!