You may be familiar with the term Kegel exercises but did you know that not all bladder conditions will be helped simply by strengthening your pelvic floor. In fact the exact opposite often needs to occur where we need to learn to release the pelvic floor. Think of your bladder being the accelerator in your car and your pelvic floor muscles the brakes. Sometimes the brakes and the accelerator are being switched on simultaneously giving the bladder mixed signals and causing it to spasm. Just like we unknowingly clench our jaw muscles and grind our teeth, often we clench our pelvic floor excessively. Relaxing your pelvic floor will help to relax your bladder. If you are experiencing a lot of general stress in other areas of your life your autonomic nervous system may be running on auto pilot in “fight or flight”. Whilst we may not always be able to control stress improving your bodies response to stress and being aware of its effect on your body is important. Overactive bladder(OAB) or Painful Bladder Syndrome often results in the pelvic floor clenching or unnecessarily tensing. Try learning to relax your pelvic floor muscles when voiding urine by gently breathing into your belly. Make sure you keep your abdominal muscles relaxed. Your flow should be continuous. Avoid contracting your pelvic floor and try and ensure you empty fully.
MINDFULNESS breathing. To assist in down regulating “fight or flight” this technique can assist in reducing your stress response. Even if you only have a minute or two try and incorporate this into your daily practice. Start by breathing in for 4 seconds gently feeling your lower ribs expanding. Maintain this breath in for 4 secs, breathe out for 4 secs and then wait 4 seconds before beginning your next inhale. Focus on keeping your tummy muscles relaxed throughout. i.e. do not pull your tummy muscle in towards your spine. Let it gently balloon outwards. Not only does this slow your respiratory rate ie number of breaths per minute it will also help access your “rest and restore” part of your autonomic nervous system.
Once you have mastered this step you can begin bladder training. This involves setting yourself small challenges to slowly increase your bladder capacity. Being able to lift and support the bladder neck and sphincter(pelvic floor muscles) is also important and your Physiotherapist will be able to assist you to get the right pelvic floor action.