Let’s say it together…urinary incontinence.
That wasn’t so bad now was it?
Even though it is a condition that about 25 million Americans struggle with, it is still discussed out in the open. Because of this secrecy, there are a lot of myths floating around.
In this blog, I want to bust the top 7 myths that I have heard from patients and clients over the last 8 years while practicing pelvic floor physical therapy.
1) A little leakage is expected as you age.
Let's bust this one right off the bat.
Urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging.
Men and women should be able to control their bladder for the entirety of their lifespan. Some conditions and medications may increase urges and frequency of bathroom trips, but everyone should be able to make it to the bathroom.
If you are unable to do so, it may be time to speak to a pelvic floor specialist to find out why.
2) Drinking less water will decrease your trips to the bathroom.
Ahh...this is probably the second most common myth that needs to be addressed. A study completed by the Nutrition Information Center at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center indicates that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Not that we don’t drink a lot….unfortunately, water is substituted with other drinks such as soda, coffee and energy drinks.
Our bodies need water to carry out important work, including diluting urine. When we are dehydrated, urine can be highly concentrated. You’ll know you're dehydrated if your urine is a dark yellow instead of a lemonade color.
Without the right dilution, the urine can irritate the bladder causing it to want to expel if faster. In other words, you will actually have to make more trips to the bathroom if you are not drinking enough water.
So don’t cut back on the water, at least not during the day.
3) Incontinence is a permanent condition.
No, it is not. Urinary incontinence can be and is treated effectively every day. There are several methods to treat incontinence.
Pelvic floor physical therapy where you learn how to strengthen and control your pelvic floor muscles. You also learn how to handle urges so that you can delay the need to go to the bathroom. This is the recommended treatment if you do not want to depend on medication for symptom control or if it has not been effective in the past.
Medication is sometimes useful for incontinence. As with any medication, there are side effects and interactions with other medication to consider. However, medication can be helpful if other methods have not worked.
Surgery is also an option that can be considered.
What will work best for you will depend on many factors.
4) Incontinence is not a real health problem.
Incontinence is a sign that something is not working properly in your body.
It can be a sign of muscle weakness in your pelvic floor, a nervous system that has gone rouge or even a systematic issue. Each of these issues can lead to increased risk of declining health if not addressed.
Incontinence can also create other health problems. This study indicates that women with urinary incontinence are at a higher risk of developing urinary tract infections.
Secondary health problems can arise from lack of sleep, decreased willingness to exercise and decrease in social interactions as you may not want to go out with your family or friends if all you are going to be doing is looking for the bathrooms.
5) You can’t control your urges to go.
This one is one of my favorites to talk about. When you have the urge, you just have to go..right? No...you really don’t.
You have incredible power over your urges and can learn how to control them so that they are no longer calling the shots in your body.
Let’s talk about how easy it is for you to control your hunger. Sure, you get an urge to eat. But what if you are at work and lunch isn’t for another 2 hours? What happens to that urge? Does it stay unbearably strong for the 2 hours? Probably not. You may get a little rumble here and there, but the strong urge to eat can be suppressed until the time is right.
The same is true for most urges to urinate.
There are lots of different strategies that pelvic floor physical therapy uses to help you identify and control the urges to urinate.
6) Urine leakage is normal with exercise.
If #1 didn’t already give away the answer, leakage with exercise is not normal. It doesn’t matter if you are running a marathon, doing 100 jumping jacks or a plank.
Your body is made to move and no movement should override your body’s ability to hold in urine.
While it is true that exercise does increase stress on your pelvic floor muscles, these muscles were designed to support all of your internal organs against gravity and the stresses of exercise.
There can be several reasons that you experience leakage with exercise, but all of those reasons indicate that something is amiss with your body and you should be treated.
7) All incontinence is the same.
If you have made it this far in this article, you probably already have figured out that this is just another myth.
Not only are there different types of incontinence, but the way that incontinence affects lifestyles varies tremendously.
Stress, urge, functional, and mixed incontinence are just a few of the most common types. People can suffer with one or all of them. No matter what you may be suffering from, it has most likely had a tremendous effect on your life.
Perhaps you try not to laugh so hard while you are in public or you plan your trips to the store by how convenient the bathroom is. Maybe you are afraid to pick up your grandchildren or travel on a plane to see your best friend.
If you are experiencing urinary incontinence, I want to leave you with two pieces of good news.
1. You are not alone. Many people have similar symptoms and are struggling right along with you. They just don’t talk about it….but they are there.
2. You can treat this. Your life doesn’t have to be defined by bathroom locations anymore. You can start by making an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Urinary incontinence is not something any one of us should be afraid to talk about. The more we keep it in the shadows of our lives, the less we will know about how we can treat it.
Any thoughts or comments? Leave them below.