Bladder control training is a proven method of overcoming bladder problems and is used in clinical practice world wide.
These12 bladder calming strategies will help you to reduce bladder urgency and assist your bladder control training.
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What is Bladder Urgency?
Bladder or urinary urgency is a very strong urge to empty the bladder. This may or may not be accompanied by loss of bladder control.
Typical triggers for bladder urgency include:
- Getting into the shower
- Running water
- Cold weather and/or rain
- Placing the key in the door upon arriving home
- Feeling nervous or anxious
- Fear of not being able to find a toilet/bathroom.
What is Normal Bladder Emptying?
It’s normal to empty the bladder less than 7-8 times per day (during waking hours).
Normal bladder emptying is approximately 250-500mls (over a cup) every time you empty your bladder. If you regularly empty your bladder with only small amounts, this can be a sign that your bladder capacity is decreased.
Bladder control training usually aims to increase the amount of urine the bladder can comfortably store.
12 Proven Bladder Control Training Techniques
Choose from the following bladder control training techniques to help overcome bladder urgency. This may be a matter of trial and error until you find those following techniques that best help you manage your bladder.
1. Contract Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Research has shown that when the pelvic floor muscles contract, the bladder muscle relaxes.
You can put this research to good use reduce urgency and unwanted leakage. When you notice an inappropriate bladder sensation, try to establish a habit of contracting your pelvic floor muscles. This can work well to assist bladder training, especially when combined with any one or a number of the following bladder control training techniques.
2. Anticipate Your Bladder Triggers
A trigger is something that sets off your urgency.
Triggers are typically reinforced by a subsequent visit to the toilet and can become difficult to overcome. Sometimes we are aware of these, sometimes not.
Common bladder triggers include:
- Key in the front door
- Running water
- Cold weather
- Looking at or proximity to the toilet
- Leaving home
- Feeling anxious (particularly about the proximity of the nearest rest room).
The techniques described above can help you to desensitize yourself to triggers as part of a bladder retraining program. For the purposes of this article however the first step is to notice what your particular triggers are, and then to anticipate and control for them by using the techniques described.
For example if you know that you experience urinary urgency every time you place your hands in running water, some techniques that may help you include; activating your pelvic floor muscles immediately beforehand, relaxing your breathing, running warm rather than cold water at first and using some form of mental distraction such as counting aloud.
3. Apply Pressure Over Your Perineum or Clitoris
We’ve all crossed out legs at one stage or another to stop the urge. This is because pressure on the clitoris or perineum (area between the vagina and anus) helps reduce urgency.
Next time you sense the onset of bladder urgency in public, try sitting and contracting your pelvic floor muscles with a strong pelvic floor muscle contraction. If you are at home you may wish to try applying gentle manual pressure using your hand. Many women find this is like an ‘off switch’ for the bladder.
4. Avoid or Limit Bladder Irritants
Some foods, drinks and spices can irritate your bladder and/or act as diuretics making the bladder fill quickly, irritating the lining of your bladder and causing urinary frequency.
Well known bladder irritants include; caffeine (coffee, tea ,green tea), alcohol, spicy foods (Thai, Indian and Mexican), artificial sweeteners, carbonated drinks and acidic fruit juices (e.g. orange, pineapple, mango).
Caffeine and alcohol are bladder irritants and they are also diuretics meaning they can have an even greater effect on increasing bladder urgency. On the other hand herbal teas are irritant and caffeine free. If you are someone who really needs their coffee or tea, try to reduce the strength or opt for a decaffeinated option.
5. Count Your Steps to the Bathroom
Counting your steps on the way to the bathroom is a great way to help overcome that extreme sense of urgency and fear of leakage you may experience. This technique can help you to get to the toilet and avoid leakage on the way.
6. Walk Don’t Run!
If you run or walk fast to the bathroom you will be more likely to leak on the way.
Instead walk, count your steps and relax your breathing as you do so. In this way you will be more likely to control your bladder and minimize or avoid unwanted leakage.
7. Relax Your Breathing
Ever noticed that when you feel urgency, you instinctively hold your breath?
Holding your breath makes urgency worse and can make you more likely to leak since when you inflate your lungs you inadvertently increase the downward pressure on your bladder and your pelvic floor. Ideally try to relax your breathing and contract your pelvic floor muscles.
8. Curl Your Toes
Toe curling is a great strategy for reducing bladder urgency.
Next time you notice that uncomfortable urgent sensation when you are sitting down, try curling your toes downwards. This can work very well when combined with pelvic floor contraction and relaxed breathing.
9. Tap Your Sacrum
This technique involves tapping your low back when you feel urgency. Once again this technique can work well when combined with pelvic floor muscle contraction and pressure on the perineum i.e. sitting.
10. Manage Your Fluid Intake
Most women should all aim to drink approximately 2 litres of caffeine free fluid steadily throughout their waking hours although this can vary according to body size, climate and exercise.
Appropriate fluids include water, herbal teas, water with a squeeze of lemon and non irritant juices.
Try to avoid withholding fluids as tempting as this may be.
If you withhold fluids then ultimately you decrease the amount of fluid your bladder is capable of comfortably holding and you actually make your bladder problems worse. Ideally try to spread your fluid intake out through the day rather than trying to withhold fluids all day and then drinking at night to make up for this. If you have night time problems with your bladder then reduce your fluid intake after pm.
11. Avoid Going Just in Case
When you use the restroom ‘just in case’ you reduce the amount your bladder can hold.
Going to the bathroom ‘just in case’ creates a progressive cycle of incomplete bladder filling and as a result an increasingly earlier urge to empty and what is technically known as urinary frequency.
If the situation is safe for you to try to hold on just a little longer, such as a day at home or in a safe situation, then try to hold on a little longer to help better fill your bladder and reduce the urgency that becomes associated with emptying your bladder at progressively smaller volumes.
Please note: If you experience difficulty fully emptying your bladder, or if you suffer from incomplete bladder emptying then your condition needs to be discussed with your medical practitioner rather than performing this technique.
12. Regular Pelvic Floor Exercises or Kegel exercises
Commitment to regular pelvic floor exercises or Kegel exercises which help act as bladder control exercise.
If your pelvic floor muscles are functioning well, then you will be able to contract them readily when you experience urinary urgency. This type of bladder control exercise will also help you better control against unwanted leakage with urgency and help you reduce your urination frequency.
Key Points for Bladder Control
These tips and techniques can help reduce bladder urgency and urinary frequency and help to bladder control training. It’s simply a matter of testing which techniques work best for you, particularly when combined with strong pelvic floor muscle contractions.
When incorporated into an effective bladder control training program, these bladder calming strategies and bladder control exercises can help to reduce and overcome bladder control problems.
Important: Bladder problems such as urinary urgency and/or urinary frequency can be caused by or associated with medical problems. If you experience urinary urgency or urinary frequency you are advised to speak with your medical practitioner about your condition before commencing bladder control training.
Pelvic Floor Exercise Daily Workout
This Physical Therapist guided workout helps you:
- Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
- Improve bladder control
- Improve bowel control and emptying
- Reduce prolapse symptoms
- Recover after pelvic floor surgery
- Prepare and recover from gynaecological surgery (prolapse/hysterectomy/incontinence)
- Maintain pelvic floor strength during pregnancy
- Recover after pregnancy and childbirth
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is an Australian Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Michelle lectures to health professionals and promotes community health through her writing, radio segments, online exercise videos and community presentations. She holds dual post graduate physiotherapy qualifications in women’s health and exercise.