- Jennifer Penney
Six Habits that Aggravate Your Bladder and Pelvic Floor
Are you guilty of some of these habits?
Note: I am a personal trainer writing this post as a reference guide. I'm not a doctor, urologist, or pelvic floor PT. Bladder and pelvic floor issues can often be caused by problems beyond the scope of this blog post. Please check in with your doctor if you have questions regarding your own personal situation.
Did you know that you can "train" your bladder? Your bladder has a strong connection (both conscious and unconscious) to you brain. Your bathroom behaviors can affect that connection in either a positive or negative way. You can "train" your bladder to behave or misbehave.
Let's take a look at six habits that can negatively affect your bladder and pelvic floor.
1. Going "just in case." You're heading out for what you know will be a long drive and run to the bathroom before you leave. You don't really need to go but "just in case..." Who wants to have to stop later on for a bathroom break?
Every time you urinate when you don't really NEED to go, you are training your bladder to go when it isn't really full. Do that often enough and the nerves in your bladder will tell you that your bladder is full when it really isn't. This can lead to an overactive bladder. Your bladder works like a balloon, it needs to be stretched (full) to help it fully empty. The reverse is also true (your bladder can become overstretched) so don't hold out forever.
Note for Moms... This goes for your kids as well. I understand how difficult this is (especially when potty training!) I have four kids. I know you don't want to stop and use a public restroom with your kids when you are out but PLEASE don't ask them to go pee right before you leave, right before they get on the school bus, before they put on their snowpants... etc, etc. This is something you cannot control. Let their bladder tell them when they need to go.
2. Ritual Pee. It's similar to going "just in case." This is just got home pee, before exercise class pee, before run/race pee, I'm awake in the middle of the night pee. You're are training your bladder to need to pee when "XYZ" happens. Because the bladder is so easily trainable, it will learn quickly that leaving the house is the time to go. Or, if you go every time you arrive at the gym, you will feel an urge to go EVERY time you arrive at the gym.
For some women, it can start to look like this...
I'm leaving the house - I need to pee so I run to the bathroom.
I've arrived at the gym (15-20 minutes later) - I need to pee so I run to the bathroom.
Class is about to start (10 minutes later) - better make a quick run to the bathroom, I'd hate to have to leave during class. Three trips to the bathroom in under an hour? What?!
Another frequent problem is "just got home" pee (a.k.a. "I've arrived" pee.) You always need to go as soon as you walk in the door. You've been out for a few hours and may (sort-of?) need to pee. But as soon as you walk in the door to your house, you feel the strongest urge to go. You barely make it there in time which makes no sense since you didn't even need to go until you walked in the door.
This is how urge incontinence can start. From now on, when you get home, get to the gym, leave the house, etc... wait a few minutes before you go. Distract yourself. Over the course of a week, try to wait a little longer each time. Eventually, you can start to tell your bladder "NO" and it will get the message and stop the constant cueing.
3. Hovering over public toilet seats. No one wants to sit on a nasty, public toilet seat but hovering just above the seat causes its own set of issues. When you urinate, your bladder needs your urethral sphincters (the muscles used to control the exit of urine through your urethra) as well as the muscles of your pelvic floor to relax. Standing in a half squat position makes relaxing those muscles much more difficult, if not impossible. Hovering requires the muscles of your pelvic floor to contract to hold you up. In general, when you hover and cannot relax, it forces you to push (bear down) in order to pee. Your body was not designed to work this way. Pushing your bladder to release when you contract your pelvic floor muscles is a disaster. You are essentially practicing a bear down contraction during a squat. This will have terrible consequences for body movement at other times, i.e. squat in the gym and could set you up for future leaking(urine) or a possible pelvic organ prolapse.
Instead, use one of those toilet seat covers or layer lots of toilet paper on the seat. If you have to, put one foot up onto the toilet seat and relax down onto that side. Whatever you do, don't make hovering a habit!
4. Power-pee or rush-pee. Do not force out your pee. This goes right along with hovering. Relaxation is required for your bladder to release properly. But we're usually in a hurry, right? Who has two whole minutes to pee? Trying to speed up the process by peeing faster means you are bearing down while you urinate. This is not how you want your system to work. Relax, your bladder does not need you to do any work. Take all the time you need (your kids won't burn down the house...) and let your bladder fully empty.
5. Multitasking. We're all trying to save time. Since you are just sitting there anyway, why not blow your nose while peeing? Bad idea! When you urinate, your pelvic floor is relaxed. Blowing your nose (exhaling) while your pelvic floor is relaxed is going to reinforce a non-optimal (and often backward) breathing pattern. Yes, it does matter HOW you breathe! Especially if you'd like to curb problems such as leaking when you sneeze. An optimal breathing pattern allows your pelvic floor to relax on inhale and contract on exhale.
Blowing your nose is a forceful exhalation and can cause the same downward pressure as bearing down. This is not something that we want to do while our pelvic floor muscles are relaxing to pee.
6. Peeing in the shower. This is a bad habit and should be stopped immediately. I think we can all agree that the shower is just not an appropriate place to pee. You are training your bladder to pee when you hear the sound of running water. This is going to lead to an urge to pee whenever you hear this sound. You're associating the shower with peeing. For those of us who need to use gym locker rooms to shower, the idea of people peeing in them is pretty gross. Enough said.
Looking for more tips to save your pelvic floor from unnecessary strain? How about fresh, new ways to work your abdominals so they will contract in conjunction with your pelvic floor muscles? Subscribe to my newsletter so you won't miss out...