We're going to focus on the most common complaint for women that relates to the pelvic floor and that is stress urinary incontinence.
Do you suffer from mild bladder leakage with exercise or movement? Do you leak if you jump on a trampoline with your kids? If so, you are not alone - 1 in 3 women struggle with bladder leakage at some point in their life and never seek help. For up to 50% of women this can be a barrier to exercise.
Stress urinary incontinence happens when exercise or movement creates a pressure on the bladder which is greater than the pelvic floor muscles can cope with. So, what can you do to help improve these symptoms?
Let's start with some really easy tips. Charlotte, our Women's Health Specialist physio, gives her top 3 easy dietary tips to help reduce the symptoms of bladder leakage.
1. Limit your caffeine intake – caffeine can irritate the bladder lining and cause urgency to urinate and frequent trips to the toilet. Aim for caffeine free drinks such as water/squash and herbal teas to encourage the bladder to be calm and improve control. Be aware alcohol, fizzy drinks and artificial sweeteners can also aggravate bladder symptoms.
2. Try not to limit your fluid intake to reduce the leakage - this actually makes the situation worse and can turn your urine into another bladder irritant. Aim for 6-8 glasses or 3-4 pints of water per day (more if you are exercising or the weather is hot).
3. Keep your bowels regular. Constipation and hard stools can put pressure on the bladder and the pelvic floor muscles, especially if you have to strain to open your bowels. Aim to eat plenty of fibre, drink plenty of fluids and exercise regularly to keep bowels moving and healthy. If that is not enough to help, seek advice from your GP.
Why do women develop stress urinary incontinence?
There are many different factors that can contribute to bladder leakage such as hormonal changes, increasing age, pregnancy, connective tissue disorders, smoking, gynaecological surgery, pelvic floor muscle weakness or co-ordination problems; even posture and exercise technique. Quite a list! We do know that whatever your cause is, exercising the pelvic floor muscle and strengthening the area around your pelvis and hips will help your symptoms.
We asked Charlotte, what are the best exercises I can do to help my pelvic floor?
1. Regular pelvic floor muscle exercises - think about squeezing the ring of muscles around your front passage as strongly as you can.
Work on 8-10 long slow squeezes - this means draw in your pelvic floor contractions and hold the contraction for a specfied count.
Work on 8-10 fast contractions - this means recruit your pelvic floor muscles quickly and release the muscles quickly.
If you are in any doubt about how to activate your pelvic floor or co-ordinate the muscle contraction, you can't feel it working or the exercises cause pain, book an appointment with Charlotte, our specialist Women's Health physiotherapist, to help you work on your strength and co-ordination in this area.
2. Ensure you fully relax your pelvic floor between each squeeze. Many women struggle to release their pelvic floor muscle contraction which can actually cause more leakage.
3. Learn to activate your pelvic floor muscles quickly and effectively before you cough or sneeze. This is known as 'The Knack' and helps to support your bladder just at that vital moment! 4. Download the Squeezy App (£2.99) which is an NHS Physiotherapy App for pelvic floor muscle exercise and will remind you to do your pelvic floor exercises 3 times a day and you can personalise the set/reps/length of hold programme to you.
5. Build strength in the surrounding muscles of your hips and pelvis. Pilates is a great way to do this so consider booking into a 1:1 session or class with Rowena by clicking here.
You can click here to read more about Charlotte and our Pelvic and Women's Health Physio Service.
If you'd like to book an appointment with Charlotte or Rowena for Pilates you can click here to take you to our online booking or send a booking enquiry to email@example.com.
Time to read another of our Women's Health blogs? Click here.