Tuesday 20 June 2023

Tips from a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist for Stress Incontinence

Photo by Joel Mott on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Stress incontinence is something that affects so many women, both young and old. It is twice as likely to develop in women than in men, mainly due to pregnancy, hormone changes, and menopause adversely impacting the pelvic floor muscle. You can be happily going about your day, getting on with all the things you need to do, then you find yourself leaking as you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise, or even lift a heavy item.

As someone who has suffered from stress incontinence after two pregnancies and three babies, I took myself off to my GP a couple of years back and asked what I could do. Luckily I received a referral quite quickly to see a pelvic health physiotherapist. It was a service I did not know existed but I am now so grateful for. Learning some new techniques and tricks has made a world of difference to me, so I want to share with you what my pelvic health physiotherapist shared with me.

1. Avoid Bladder Irritants

The following foods are best avoided or limited to stop your bladder from getting irritable, as this irritation can lead to bladder spasms and thus leakage. Sadly there is quite an extensive list and it may be things you love like alcohol and chocolate, but even cutting down (if you can't cut them out) can make a marked difference. Orange and blackcurrant juices, caffeinated drinks, cola drinks, tomatoes, artificial sweeteners, and even tobacco. It really is key to try and cut out on smoking and drinking alcohol if you struggle in this area. 

2. Delay going to the toilet

You can actually train your bladder and this is really good if you sometimes get an urgent urge to urinate. I had got to a point where I was so worried that I might leak, that at the first sign of needing to urinate, I went to the loo and this meant I was in there very frequently. With a bit of determined thought, I started to delay going to the loo and was often super surprised that the urge to go just went away. Delay tactics I used were standing up, going on my tip-toes, doing a pelvic floor exercise, or doing another task such as sweeping the floor. 

I learned that my body had a learned behaviour in regard to arriving back home. For years I have gone to the loo the moment I got home and by a little experience, I learned that my body will tell me I need to wee the moment I get to my front door, even if I only went out for 10 minutes. Ignoring this urge and using the delay tactics mentioned made a big difference to me. 

3. Do not go to the toilet, just in case

This was another bad habit I had gotten into. It seems to make sense at first but then when you hear the physiotherapist explain that you are telling your bladder to go to the loo even when you don't really need it. It means that you are backward and forward to the toilet for every tiny trickle! There is no need and of course, for peace of mind, you can wear a pad, a massive selection of which is available at Complete Care Shop

4. Drink plenty of water

It's important to continue to drink a good amount of water and other noncaffeinated drinks to ensure that your bladder remains a good size. By avoiding fluids as you are worried about leakage you could create more issues that you don't want, such as irritating your own bladder as your urine would become very concentrated and look dark in colour. Try to make sure that your urine is always straw-coloured generally. Drinking adequate water is so important for so many body functions. 

5. Prioritise your health

By this I mean start to really look after yourself. If you have excess weight it is important to try to lose this, as it causes undue stress on your pelvic floor and fatty tissue around your bladder. It's also a great idea to engage in exercise that strengthens your core, so something like Pilates is perfect. Whilst you are struggling with 

6. Don't Strain

Who knew that straining to go to poo will put undue stress on your pelvic floor and potentially weaken it? This is another reason to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water so that you can stay regular and don't get constipated and need to strain.

7. Develop your pelvic floor

Make sure you are exercising your pelvic floor and it needs to be regular and continuous. You could notice a difference within a couple of weeks but it is around three months for many women. This is a link to the leaflet that my local health authority published and they encourage you to do both quick and slow pelvic holds. 

It's also important to be prepared when you have stress incontinence, so if you can feel a sneeze coming on, you want to do a pelvic hold to help you minimise leakage. I was taught to do a pelvic hold before I moved from sitting to standing, before getting up in the morning, before lifting something heavy etc and this certainly helped me.

From 20th - 26th June it is world continence week and that is why I'm sharing this blog post on behalf of Complete Care Shop, which believes they can give everyone the confidence they need to live a fuller life, and are dedicated to enabling independence every day.  I was really heartened to see that they are concerned about incontinence poverty. As a manager of two local food banks, I know just how hard so many people are finding the cost of living increases. If you need to request some adult incontinence pads or other continence care products in confidence, call Complete Care Shop's team on 01772 675 048 or complete the form online. 

This post is in conjunction with Complete Care Shop, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.