Can Exercises Help With Overactive Bladder?
I Have to Go Now
People with overactive bladder experience a sudden and urgent need to urinate, or may lose urine involuntarily. Having to go often—more than every three hours in a 24-hour period—is another symptom of this disorder. Read more to learn about the role of exercise in helping to manage this stressful and potentially embarrassing condition.
Muscles Working Overtime
In the normal process of urination, your brain receives a signal when your bladder starts to fill. This message tells you it’s time to go. In people with overactive bladder, the bladder muscles that ordinarily contract to let urine out begin to contract involuntarily. These involuntary contractions create the sudden need to dash to the restroom.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor, or Kegel, exercises boost the strength of your bladder and sphincter muscles and can help you gain some control over random bladder muscle contractions. If you’re new to doing these exercises, identifying the correct set of muscles can be tricky at first. With practice, you’ll recognize the correct muscle groups and learn how to strengthen them.
Stop Urine in Midstream, But Not Often
To find your pelvic floor muscles, stop urine in midstream. The muscles you contract to do this are your pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles you’ll tense when you do Kegel exercises. Once you have located the correct muscles, do Kegel exercises after you empty your bladder. Don’t stop urine in midstream as regularly—this can further weaken your bladder muscles.
Relax and Strengthen Your Bladder
While lying down with your knees bent, contract your pelvic floor muscles. Stay alert, so you don’t contract muscles in your stomach, legs, or rear. Hold the pelvic floor contraction to the count of five, and then relax for another count to five. Try the contact-and-relax routine a few more times. As your muscles gain strength, increase your contraction time gradually until you can hold to the count of 10. Work your way up to three sets of Kegel exercises a day. As you get stronger, you can do Kegel exercises anywhere, anytime, and in a sitting, standing, or reclining position.
Kegel exercises work only when done correctly. Rest your hand on your stomach as you do them. If your belly moves, you’re contracting your abdominal muscles. Unclench your hands and listen to your breathing so you’re not tempted to hold it. Slow, deep breaths help you isolate the right muscles, rather than tightening your face, neck, or chest. Finally, if you think you’re squeezing your buttocks instead of your pelvic floor muscles, the Urology Care Foundation suggests sitting in front of a mirror. If your body goes up and down slightly as you do your Kegel exercises, you’re using your buttock muscles.
There won’t be instant results with Kegel exercises, unfortunately. Just as it takes time for any exercise to produce a whittled waist or toned arms, Kegel exercises take about six to eight weeks to produce changes in your ability to hold your urine. Stay with it and don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to reach the 10-second count.
Get Help If You Need It
If you’re unsure whether you’re doing your Kegel exercises right, enlist your doctor’s help. Through observation or biofeedback, he or she can let you know if your technique is correct or if you need some coaching. With biofeedback, a probe in your vagina or rectum measures your muscle contraction and relaxation, and displays it on a computer monitor. The visual confirms whether you have isolated the right muscles.
Exercise to Stay in a Normal Weight Range
Carrying extra weight around may aggravate symptoms of overactive bladder. Along with Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles used for urination, aim for a regular daily exercise you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, bicycling, or gardening. Taking off excess pounds may help lessen overactive bladder symptoms.
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- Kegel exercises for men: understand the benefits. (2012). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kegel-exercises-for-men/MY01402
- Kegel (pelvic floor muscle) exercises. (2013). Urology Care Foundation. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=119
- Overactive bladder. (2013). Urology Care Foundation. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=112
- Overactive bladder: treatments and drugs. (2013). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 26, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/overactive-bladder/DS00827/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs