Urinary incontinence is an inconvenient – and sometimes embarrassing – condition common among older adults. Nobody is born with bladder control; it’s something we learn as a child. If you lose control of your bladder, you can retrain it with a variety of behavioral techniques.
6 techniques to alleviate incontinence
Firm up your muscles
Kegels are exercises that help control bladder function by building stronger and thicker pelvic floor muscles. A proper Kegel is done by squeezing and lifting up inside the body – as if you’re stopping the flow of urine or holding back gas – and relaxing fully. You should try to do 10 Kegels twice a day. Start by holding the contraction for three seconds and slowly work up to a 10-second hold.
Stick to a schedule
Bladder training can help with leakage and unstable bladders by teaching it to obey a timetable. Start by going to the bathroom every hour, whether or not you feel the need. Once you can control it, add 30 minutes to your bathroom intervals.
Take your time
When you feel a strong urge, the worst thing to do is rush to the bathroom. Strong urges are associated with the fight or flight nervous system. If you hurry, your body thinks you’re in a state of emergency and doesn’t care about bladder control. That’s how you pee your pants.
Your bladder may be sensitive to certain drinks. Coffee, tea, dark colas and other beverages that contain caffeine, carbonation or sweeteners irritate the bladder and make you urinate more frequently. Alcohol can also cause issues. Stick with water instead, drinking around 64 ounces each day.
Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, calms the fight or flight nervous system associated with the urges and helps the breathing muscles and pelvic floor muscles work together better. Breathing is really important for bladder health. Breathing and relaxation help retrain the bladder so it doesn’t leak when it’s not full.
The urge to urinate comes in waves, starting when the bladder is half full. The sensation eventually goes away and comes back when it’s more full. Let the urge to urinate pass by thinking positively or diverting your attention to something else.
If you struggle with constipation, abdominal pain or other issues related to the pelvic floor, you don’t have to manage it alone. Our exceptional physical therapists are experts in pelvic health and can create a strengthening program specifically for your activities and goals. For more information, visit the Des Moines University Physical Therapy Clinic website or call 515-271-1717.