This year September 15th – 19th is National Continence Awareness week. Millions of people are affected by bladder and bowel problems, and for the vast majority the associated embarrassment and stigma stops them from even talking about it, let alone seeking help. We need to get these subjects out into the open and let people know there is something that can be done to help them. People tend to think that incontinence is simply part of the ageing process or the result of childbirth and that they have to put up with it. This just isn’t the case, the good news is that a lot can be done to manage, improve and sometimes cure these conditions.

Who can suffer from urinary incontinence? (UI)

Incontinence can affect men and women of all ages, although it is more common amongst women.For a few women, this can be a problem from a young age, with stress incontinence beginning around child bearing years and can also become an increasing problem with age. It is estimated that almost a quarter of the UK population have had or have some kind of problem with their bladder control.

What is stress incontinence? (SUI)

Stress incontinence is when urine leaks when there is a sudden extra pressure (‘stress’) on the bladder for example when you sneeze, cough, laugh, lift or do exercise. These activities place sudden extra pressure within your abdomen and on the bladder, causing accidental leaks.

Stress incontinence is the most common form of urinary incontinence. The main treatment which often works well is to do pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles.

What is urge urinary incontinence? (UUI)

The second most common type of incontinence is urge incontinence which is when you get an urgent desire to pass urine from an ‘overactive bladder’. Urine may leak before you have time to get to the toilet.

You may also:

  • Need to empty your bladder more frequently than normal, ie more than eight times a day
  • Pass less water than usual each time
    Get up in the night several times to pass urine
  • Feel your bladder doesn’t empty completely
    Leak when you hear running water.

Help is at hand

If you had a bladder problem in the Middle Ages the advice would have been to tie a frog around your waist, thankfully today’s treatments are a little more refined. The choice and availability of treatments, products and medicines has never been greater. Some problems can be cured while others can be effectively managed so that individuals can return to a normal life. Treatment does not necessarily have to involve drugs or surgery. There are a number of simple things that can be done to improve some symptoms. For example, pelvic floor exercises, lifestyle changes and techniques to retrain the bladder.

Pelvic floor exercises

When a muscle is not exercised it will weaken through lack of use. The pelvic floor muscles are no exception. And like other muscles they can be damaged. The most common cause of damage to the pelvic floor is the strain and stretching involved in childbirth – large babies and the use of forceps can increase this damage. . A long history of constipation can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles.

Prevention is better than cure – exercising these muscles can keep your pelvic floor muscles in good shape and can give you more control over your bladder and bowel, helping to prevent continence problems.

Healthy drinking habits

  • It is important to drink enough. Your continence advisor can tell you how much you should be drinking each day.
  • It is best not to drink too much tea, coffee, cola or fizzy drinks – these can irritate the bladder and make your problems worse.
  • Alcoholic drinks can irritate the bladder too. Drink plain water, fruit or herbal tea and cordials.
  • Pay attention to what you drink. Take note of which drinks cause problems and try and eliminate them from your diet.
  • Do not cut down the amount you drink – this makes your urine even more concentrated and can make bladder problems worse.
  • Other things which may help with an continence problem
  • Avoid getting constipated – eat a healthy diet. When the bowel does not empty it swells up and pushes on the bladder.
  • Try to keep your weight down. Being overweight can put extra pressure on your bladder.
  • Give Up Smoking. A persistent smoker’s cough can make stress incontinence worse.

Physiotherapist specialist in Women’s healthcare

If you suffer with any incontinence problem you can rest assured that you are not alone, and there is help available.

Rugby Physiotherapy is pleased to introduce our new member of the team, Lydia Herring who specializes in women’s healthcare and can help with continence problems in women of all ages.

During National Continence Awareness week we are offering you the opportunity to discuss your health problem with Lydia to see if physiotherapy could help you.

Call 01788 565044 or call into the clinic to make an appointment for your free health check consultation or to pick up a free leaflet.