Incontinence - Facts and myth-busting

11 June 2019

At some point in their lives many men and women will experience incontinence. The common belief is that it is inevitable after childbirth, weight gain, heavy work or menopause, and that the only treatment is to wear bulky pads/special underwear and to live with it, often reinforced by TV adverts. But this is not so! Treatment is easy and very successful in the vast majority of people. Our Physiotherapist, Sue, discusses incontinence, including the facts, myth-busting, lifestyle factors, and top tips. 


The facts

  • Bladder weakness affects 1 in 3 people, and is even more common than hay fever
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence can affect anyone at any age
  • Trauma or weakness of the pelvic floor muscles can contribute to the likelihood of bladder weakness, but so can lifestyle
  • It can occur in men with prostate issues but also in runners, singers and those with a heavy job or chronic cough

Myth-busting

  • It does not only affect women
  • Getting up to pee more than once a night is not normal
  • It is not just the bladder that is affected
  • Very fit people can experience it

Lifestyle factors 

Regular runners and gym goers will have built up their cardiovascular and strength and endurance systems. However, they frequently neglect to tone their pelvic floor and can therefore suffer incontinence in exercise classes or when out running.

New mums return home exhausted with their new bundle of joy, and often feel they do not have enough time to exercise or look after their own health.

Busy folk in the city may work long hours, skip breaks and thus not take on enough fluids and nutrition until late in the evening.

Many elderly may feel there is no help available, and that it is a natural result due to ageing or the menopause.

Some people have chronic constipation and feel the only solution is taking laxatives.

My top tips

Don't:

  • Reduce fluids - it will not stop incontinence, but will cause chronic constipation with its associated health consequences
  • Stop and start the flow when urinating - this will disrupt bladder function and may lead to incomplete emptying and consequent urine infections.
  • Pass urine frequently ‘just in case’, as this will give small volumes and become a bad bladder habit
  • Use artificial sweeteners or too much concentrated citrus juice or caffeine, as this makes the bladder very irritable

Do:

  • Aim to drink 1.5 to 2 litres a day. Tea and coffee is fine, unless you are sensitive, but do include squash and water too
  • Aim to empty your bladder regularly during the day, eg every 3 - 4 hours, ensuring it's fully emptied by bending or leaning slightly forwards
  • Make sure any underlying health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure or Neurological illnesses are monitored by your GP or practice nurse
  • Men - please get your PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels checked; it's a simple blood test that your GP can arrange
  • Consult a specialist Physiotherapist, who will be able to devise a tailored individual plan to deal with your symptoms

If you have any concerns with incontinence our Physiotherapy team are on hand to help. Your assessment and treatment will be carried out by highly trained physiotherapists, and can assist with a wide range of conditions. Call us today on 0208 709 7878, where you will be asked to describe what sort of problem you would like treatment for so that an appointment can be booked with the appropriate physiotherapist.

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.

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