Manage Your Stress Urinary Incontinence
You’ll find the following strategies helpful.
Stress urinary incontinence is a common problem, causing the unintentional loss of urine during physical activity. Many people dealing with it will say things like “I pee when I laugh” or “I pee when I cough or sneeze”. Others find themselves leaking when exercising or when straining to lift a heavy object.
Before you try anything else, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor or other health care provider to discuss the issues you’re having with bladder control. They can help confirm your diagnosis, and recommend the best treatment options. Some of these are of the do-it-yourself variety (see below). Others, such as medication and/or surgery, may be necessary if the “DIY” treatments aren’t sufficient to solve the problem.
The root cause is a weakness in the pelvic floor muscles and tissues supporting the bladder. Additionally, the muscles controlling the urinary sphincter (a valve that prevents urine from leaking out) can become too weak to do the job effectively.
There are many things that can lead to such a weakness, including childbirth (especially multiple births) and prostate surgery (sometimes the effects won’t be noticed until many years afterwards). Another common cause is old age.
Many people with stress incontinence are able to go about daily life symptom-free until something triggers it. Triggers may include coughing, sneezing, laughing too hard, jumping, running, or lifting heavy objects. Some people experience leaking when standing up from a seated position.
The good news is that many of these triggers are predictable, so preventative measures can be taken to prevent urine from escaping when it shouldn’t. For example, if you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, you can try tightening your pelvic floor muscles before and during the cough or sneeze to prevent leakage of urine. The same strategy can be used before lifting something heavy. For many people, this alone is enough to prevent problems.
To figure out how to control your pelvic floor muscles, try stopping the flow of urine the next time you use the restroom. If you’re successful at stopping it, you’ve found the right muscles.
And since they’re a muscle like any other, they can be strengthened with exercise — in fact, this is one of the most important ways to treat this condition. Your health care provider can tell you how often is best for your personal situation. They can also assist you in locating the right muscles more easily via biofeedback exercises.
Don’t make the mistake of suffering in silence, or being too shy to discuss this common problem with your health care provider. The sooner you seek help, the sooner the issue can be fixed — with the right treatment, many people are able to see dramatic improvement or even complete relief from their symptoms.