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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12 Proven Bladder Control Training Techniques
Choose from the following bladder control training techniques that help many women to overcome the urge to empty the bladder. This may be a matter of trial and error until you find those folowing 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 can set 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 triggers include:
- Key in the front door;
- Running water;
- Cold weather;
- Looking at or proximity to the toilet;
- Leaving home; and
- 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 point or another. 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 your intake of 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 trot to the bathroom you will be much 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? This actually makes the problem of 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 urgent. 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 2 litres of caffeine free fluid steadily throughout their waking hours. This can include herbal teas, water with a squeeze of lemon and non irritant juices. Women in hot and humid climates, and those involved in heavy work or sport may need to drink more than this.
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 rest room ‘just in case’ you reduce the amount your bladder could have actually held if allowed to fill a little more. 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 / Kegel exercises
Commitment to regular pelvic floor exercises / 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.
What is Normal Bladder Emptying?
In women it is normal to empty the the bladder less than 7-8 times per day (during waking hours). Normal bladder emptying is approximately 250-500 mls (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.
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, and
- Fear of not being able to find a toilet/bathroom.
These tips and techniques have all been found to be effective in helping different women to reduce and/or overcome bladder urgency and urinary frequency and are a very useful adjunct 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to strengthen the pelvic floor and exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe exercises.