Now that we've had a look at some easy changes you can make to protect or restore your pelvic health, lets learn about some of the conditions you will be preventing!
I'm starting with urinary incontinence because it is very, very common. Increasingly so in a younger population, often after childbirth but not necessarily. It is one of the leading causes for admission of older people (not just women) into nursing homes and can cost a small fortune to manage using pads. And while I am glad that awareness of adult incontinence is increasing thanks to television advertisements for adult diapers, I do not agree with their message that leaking is just something to put up with.
In fact, the leaking of urine isn't really the problem, rather it is the SYMPTOM of a poorly functioning system. Therefore, continuing to subject the pelvic structures to the current movements and pressures that are result in leaking will continue to weaken the pelvic floor and worsen the symptoms. The solution here is actually to restore the balance of muscles throughout the body and avoid creating unnatural pressure inside the body.
If you only take away one message from this post, let it be this:
Urinary incontinence, regardless of whether you've had children is NOT normal and does NOT have to be simply part of aging!
Urinary incontinence is defined as the involuntary leaking of urine. This can encompass just a few drops of urine or enough to change your clothing, perhaps only once a month or even several times a day. How much it affects your life will most likely determine how much you care to fix it. But unfortunately it is not something that is going to fix itself and will only get worse as you age. Having said that, it is never too late to improve your pelvic floor with people in their 90's being able to cure their incontinence!
There are two main types of urinary incontinence that we deal with. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and Urge incontinence. SUI is due to external pressure on the bladder, for example with a cough, sneeze, laugh and also with lifting, running and quick changes of direction. Urge incontinence is a little more complex and involves involuntary contractions of the bladder itself (over-active bladder) or stimulation of the bladder from various causes which leads to emptying before you are ready.
There are also some neurological conditions that can contribute to changes in bladder and bowel function. If you have noticed sudden or overnight changes in control or sensation of the pelvic area then it would be best to seek medical advice immediately.
As I've alluded to in other posts, dysfunction of the pelvic floor is not simply weakness of the muscles. Rather, it is often a problem of the lumbo-pelvic region that has lead to weakness and/or shortening of the pelvic floor muscles. Therefore, it is important to determine the underlying cause for optimal results of any treatment and to prevent recurrence.
More on each type of incontinence in the following posts: