One of the most common types of incontinence, especially in women and the elderly, is stress incontinence. This is when the pelvic and bladder muscles weaken and therefore when a person laughs, sneezes, coughs, etc. they leak urine.
Stress incontinence can be very frustrating to treat and many people suffer from it. Women in particular, especially those who have given birth, are at risk for this type of incontinence. However, no one has to deal with it permanently. There are steps that can be taken to strengthen those muscles and better control the bladder. These are called Kegel exercises.
Kegel exercises can be done anytime, anywhere, sitting, standing, or lying down. They’re unobtrusive and fairly easy to do, and they can make a big difference in your risk for stress incontinence. However, to get all the benefits, they need to be done correctly. That’s how:
1. Find the right muscles to exercise. The best way to find out which muscles these are is to imagine yourself stopping the flow of urine midway through elimination. The muscles that you would use to contract your bladder are the ones that you want to exercise. Another great way to think about it is to imagine yourself holding the gas through. The muscles that you pull or tense to avoid touching are the ones you want to exercise. If you are still unsure, you can do biofeedback exercises to identify the muscles you need to strengthen. You can talk to your doctor to do this.
2. When doing a Kegel exercise, you don’t want to squeeze other muscles at the same time. Be careful not to strain your stomach, legs, buttocks, or other muscles, but only your pelvic muscles. Contracting the wrong muscles can have a negative effect and put pressure on the bladder control muscles.
3. Don’t hold your breath.
4. Contract your pelvic muscles. Then hold on. Hold for a count of three, then relax for a count of three. Repeat. Try to work up to three sets of ten, three times a week.
5. When you first start out, do these exercises lying down. It is the easiest way to wear the hat, and you will know how to do them correctly. Then, as your muscles get stronger, you can work up to sitting and standing, where gravity plays a role, adding weight and making it a bit more difficult.
Most people notice an improvement in bladder control after about 3 weeks. So taking the time to spend five minutes a day for a month can give you more confidence and control. Just remember to do it and keep it up.