OTD, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist
Hi fighters! Dr. Amanda Satcher here, occupational therapist with specialty training in pelvic health. I wanted to share some bladder tips, and why they may be important for you. First, let’s all get on the same page and normalize this topic a bit. Many people feel embarrassed or shameful in talking about toileting. But here’s the scoop: We all do it. This is one of our most important, and most frequent, daily tasks. More than 65% of those who struggle with incontinence do not discuss this with their doctor, and incorrectly assume it is just a normal part of aging. Research shows that incontinence often results in feelings of anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and isolation. What other self-care activity has that much impact on our mental health? We cannot ignore this without a fight, and help is available!
Many symptoms of bladder dysfunction like incontinence, frequent urination, and nighttime frequency or incontinence, can be well managed with simple strategies as recommended by a pelvic floor therapist. There are many different factors that cause these issues, so a personalized evaluation is recommended, and I would love to help you through this.
However, there are some tips to managing your bladder that can be helpful for just about everyone.
Tip #1: Minimize common bladder irritants. Caffeine, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners (like in diet soda) all act as irritants to our bladder. Minimize these if you are struggling with incontinence, frequency (having to go too often), or frequent nighttime toileting, as they can be irritating your bladder.
Tip #2: Drink more water. Many people who struggle with incontinence mistakenly believe they should limit their fluid intake. But in fact, the opposite is true. When you don’t drink enough water, your urine becomes more concentrated, and acts as a bladder irritant. Increased water intake has many other health benefits, in addition to supporting bladder health. Orthostatic hypotension, a symptom in which blood pressure drops when you sit up or stand up, is reported by about 30% of folks with PD. Increasing your water intake helps to support blood pressure stability.
Tip #3: Regular daily bowel movements. Constipation can have a negative impact on the bladder. A full colon can put pressure on the bladder, which can result in increased urine frequency, not being able to empty urine all the way, or incontinence. Check out last week’s post if you are struggling with constipation.
Tip #4: Relax, and fully empty. When toileting, whether urinating or having a bowel movement, relaxation and proper positioning is key. Use a stool under your feet to raise your knees slightly higher than your hips. Keep your back straight, while leaning forward slightly. Some folks find it helpful to rock forward 3 times, using those big movements we know and love. This can put some gentle pressure on your bladder and cue your bladder that it’s time. Take a deep breath in, and relax while you breath out, releasing your urine as you exhale. No breath holding. No bearing down. Truly relax. Some people feel it’s helpful to hum or even whistle during their exhale. This helps to calm our nervous system. If you feel you have to strain to urinate, or if you feel don’t feel like you are able to fully empty, please reach out to schedule a consultation.
Tip #5: Avoid rushing to the toilet. If you are struggling with urge incontinence, or the feeling of emergently needing to go as soon as you first notice you need to go, resist this urge, just momentarily. Try 5 pelvic floor contractions. For women, this is a Kegel. For men, this may feel like walking into a pool
of cold water. Take 3 calm, deep breaths in, and smooth breaths out. Think about something else. Once that intense urge has passed, then calmly move to the toilet. Our brains are amazing, and when we rush to the toilet repeatedly, we reinforce that sense of urgency. We need to break that cycle. Rushing to the toilet also greatly increases risk of falls. A double whammy.
These are just a few tips, grounded in research, that can make a big impact. I have many more tricks in my bag. If you need more individualized support, I would love to meet with you. Reach out to MyLiveability, LLC. to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation via phone or Zoom and see if pelvic floor occupational therapy is right for you. We accept Medicare Part B.