Lately I have gotten a number of requests for help with bladder control issues from both adult men and women.
Problems range from overly frequent urination to leakage. In some cases the frequency of urination may be such that it is disruptive to normal activities. Or it may prevent one from getting a good night’s sleep.
Anyone, man or woman, who has ever suffered through a bladder infection will likely identify with this problem.
Because I have had a number of requests for natural help with this lately, I have gone back over my own experiences and dug into the research pool, as well. There are a number of natural remedies and health measures that can be safe and effective. Some are herbal, others involve homeopathics. But today I am going to focus on something that just about anyone can do and that does not require you to spend one cent. There is nothing to buy.
Before I talk about this measure, I need to review some basics about pelvic anatomy. The pelvic area may be thought of as the lowest part of the abdominal cavity. The pelvic area is generally defined as extending from the lowest part of the groin to about the belly button, or umbilicus in most people.
The pelvic area houses the reproductive organs, the bladder, the lower portion of the colon and the rectum.
Some of these organs are at least partially supported by a muscle, or muscle set that forms the floor of the entire pelvic area. This muscle, with the medical name of the pubococcygeus muscle, is also more commonly referred to simply as the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor muscle attaches to the pubic bone in front, to the tail bone, (coccyx), in back. It forms the foundation of the entire pelvic area, and provides support for the organs in the pelvic area.
In many adults, particularly those of us with mileage, the pelvic floor muscle tends to lose it tone and lose some of its strength. This is not a muscle that gets enough exercise to keep it healthy just from the normal activities that most of us engage in.
When the pelvic floor muscle loses its tone or strength, common systems can include urinary urgency, increased urinary frequency, urinary leakage.
So although there are drugs and surgical procedures that in some cases can help to restore urinary control, they should never be the first choice. They entail significant risks and often cause serious side effects.
Fortunately, there is a very simple solution: There are simple exercises that men and women can easily do that will strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and help them to regain their healthy muscle tone.
The exercises are called Kegels, pronounced like: kay-gells, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, M.D., who developed them.
The exercises are easy to do and easy to learn for most people. They simply consist of contracting the pelvic floor muscles, holding the contraction for a brief period of time, and releasing it.
It turns out that in most cases, simply strengthening the pelvic floor muscles significantly improves urinary control, and in some cases entirely restores it. I suspect, and some researchers contend that those who experience the most benefit are also those who are most diligent about doing the exercises.
The first step is to identify the muscles involved. You need to do this in terms of how these muscles feel when they are contracted.
There are several ways to identify the muscles by feel or sensation. The simplest is to simply focus on the muscles at the bottom of your bottom, and just forward of your anus. This is easiest to do when you are sitting. Focus on that area and then contract the muscles as if you were trying to pull that part of your body up towards your head.
If you are new to doing Kegel exercises, then initially try contracting for 5 seconds, then releasing for 5 seconds. To begin with, you can set a goal of 5 repetitions. As you are able, work up to holding your contracting for 10 seconds and doing 10 reps.
Make sure you do NOT hold your breath while doing the Kegel exercises. Instead, just breathe normally and naturally.
Some experts suggest doing a total of 3 sets of the full exercises every day. However, many report great results from just working up to a single set of 10 repetitions every day.
Although, for those new to Kegel exercises and needing to make sure that they are focusing on and contracting the right set of muscles, it is easiest to do this while seated, once you are more experienced you should be able to do them while lying down, as well.
You should not do Kegel exercises without first making sure your bladder is as empty as possible They also should not be done if you need to move your bowels. You can safely do them immediately after emptying your bladder. But it is probably best to wait an hour after a bowel movement before doing the Kegel exercises.
Some people initially have trouble identifying the correct set of muscles. If just focusing on the area just forward of your anus and trying to pull that area up into your body does not make you feel sure you have the right muscles, then here is another way to identify the right muscles: You can gently insert a lubricated finger into your anus and then try to squeeze your finger with your anal sphincter muscles. This will also contract your pelvic floor muscles. You should then be able to memorize the feel of the muscles in their contracted state in your pelvic floor area.
If you are female you may find it easier to identify the pelvic floor muscles by inserting your finger into your vagina and then contracting the vaginal muscles to squeeze the finger.
Most people find it easy to identify the correct muscles by one of the above methods, often just by focusing on the area and trying to pull it up into the body. However, there are a few people, who may have some neurological impairment or other reasons why they have trouble identifying the correct muscle group and contracting them. For those people it may be advisable to seek assistance from a gynecological or urological practitioner.
One caution: Some people suggest that you can identify the pelvic floor muscles by contracting the muscles in the area while urinating until you stop the flow. I do not recommend this. In some cases it is possible to damage the urinary sphincters by doing this.
Besides restoring urinary control, some of the benefits that often result from using the Kegel exercises to improve the pelvic floor muscle tone include:
- Better overall health
- Increased energy
- Sounder sleep
- Lower risk of reproductive cancers
- Lower risk of reproductive infections
- Improved sexual performance
- Enhanced sexual pleasure
- Improved bowel function
- Better colon health
- Lower risk of hemorhoids
- Improvement and healing of hemorhoids if you already have them
Please feel free to post your comments and questions below.
To your great health!