How to Improve Bladder Health

Fiona McMahon, DPT

The bladder, not super complex right? Just a tupperware for pee, holding your urine until an opportune time to go. The bladder is so much more than that, integrating information from the brain, muscles of the pelvic floor, and responding to stretch to efficiently serve its purpose. We never think of the bladder until something goes wrong with it.

In honor of bladder health month, we will be exploring the anatomy of the bladder, what is normal for the bladder, what can go wrong with the bladder, and how to best take care of your precious and hard working bladder.

Bladder Anatomy/ Physiology

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Male or female, we all have the same basic structure of the bladder, with a few exceptions. Here’s what everyone has in their lower urinary tract.

  • Detrusor Muscle: Forms the body of the bladder and is responsible for squeezing the bladder to empty its contents. It spends most of its time relaxed in order to allow for bladder filling.
  • Trigone Muscle: Forms the neck of the bladder, and is a powerful sensory organ. When the trigone stretches in response to the filling of the bladder, it sends a message to the brain that it’s time to pee.
  • Internal Urethral Sphincter: Smooth muscle (involuntary) which seals off the exit of the bladder and allows for continence.
  • External Urethral Sphincter: Striated or voluntary muscles which also seals the exit of the bladder.
  • Urethra: This is the tube that leads out of the bladder and is the pathway for urine into the outside world.

Sex differences:

Men have a prostate. The prostate is a sex organ and is responsible for keeping the semen at the right pH to fertilize a waiting egg. It wraps around the urethra and lives just under the bladder. It also provides a mechanical buttress or support for the bladder, lessening the load on the pelvic floor.  Because of its proximity to the urethra, problems with the prostate can cause problems with the bladder.  An enlarged prostate, which can be a benign part of aging, cancer, or infection, will restrict the flow of urine out of the urethra, resulting in weak stream, painful, burning urination, and difficulty urinating (the same thing happens with tight pelvic floor muscles). A prostate that has been surgically removed, most often has occurred for treatment of prostate cancer. For more information on prostate cancer click here (link to old content). Also keep your eyes peeled for a blog on non-bacterial prostatitis coming soon!

Another important difference between guys and gals are the respective length of their urethras. Male urethras are a lot longer than female urethras. This is one of the reasons women are more prone to bladder infections. In a female, bacteria have a lot easier time making the trek to the bladder because of the shorter urethra.  

Conditions of the Bladder

Gotta_Pee_Toilet_signsIncontinence

Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. There are many causes of incontinence. It’s important to know why you are leaking in order to know how to appropriately remedy it. It is possible to have more than one type of incontinence, and when that occurs we call it mixed incontinence.  Let’s go through the types together.

  • Urge incontinence occurs when you leak urine  after a sudden urge to urinate. We call it, lock in key syndrome, because certain events like unlocking the door to your home can cause urge incontinence.  This is the type of incontinence, which should be treated first in cases of mixed urge/stress incontinence.
  • Stress incontinence is the result of pelvic floor weakness that prevents the closure of the external urethral sphincter with activities that increase the pressure on the bladder, like coughing, laughing, lifting or sneezing. Pelvic floor weakness can occur if the muscles and or connective tissues are too loose to create an efficient contraction and more commonly, especially with athletes, too tight or imbalanced, to fully close the external urethral sphincter. Read more about incontinence in athletes here (link to content)
  • Functional incontinence occurs when you physically can not get to the bathroom in time to urinate. This is common in the elderly or disabled, who may have trouble ambulating to the bathroom, removing clothing, or transferring from a chair into standing. It is imperative that this type of incontinence is treated aggressively by a physical therapist or occupational therapist as it increases the risk of potentially fatal or disabling falls.

Incomplete voiding

Incomplete voiding is when the bladder does not fully empty.

In a normally functioning patient, volitional effort should not be required to empty the bladder.  A pelvic floor that is unable to relax, will have a smaller opening for urine to pass through or the voluntary muscles involuntarily contract because of muscle spasming, resulting in hesitancy, or incomplete bladder emptying.   

Bladder Pain

Pain is our body’s way of telling us there is something wrong. With a new onset of bladder pain, it is important to rule out infection or an organic condition. Often times musculoskeletal conditions or general bladder irritation can mimic bladder infections.  In our practice, we often see patients who had been convinced they had an infection only to find out all of their tests for infection, where in fact, negative and the source of their pain was a tight or shortened pelvic floor.

It is important to understand the character of your bladder pain. Does your bladder hurt as it fills with urine and then feels better only shortly after voiding? If your answer is yes, you may have bladder irritation from urine that isn’t dilute enough (you are not drinking enough water), or you are consuming something irritating like spicy food, caffeine or alcohol. You may also have a condition known as painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis which is contributing to your symptoms. It is important to get a handle on bladder filling pain right away, because it is the first step in treating other conditions such as frequency, urgency, incomplete emptying and retention.

If you have pain and burning during urination with no infection, it is likely the pelvic floor muscles and tissues cannot relax enough to allow urine to flow out without burning, (the pelvic floor also plays a role in bladder filling pain as well). Burning with urination that is not caused by an infection, is treatable with pelvic floor PT.

Frequency:

Everytime I hear someone say “I have a small bladder”, I have the uncontrollable urge to say, “No, you have a sensitive bladder, which can be trained to be better”. Saying you have a small bladder is 95% of the time fatalistic and just untrue. Most bladders, with few exceptions can hold 400-600 mL. Holding capacity can be diminished in cases of constipation, pregnancy and some neurological conditions, but most everyone is working with similarly sized equipment (the exception, being growing children).

Average intervoid interval, aka times between pees, is 2-3 hours, unless you chug a liter of fluid or cups of caffeine in one sitting. An example is being able to make it through James Cameron’s, Titanic, without having to excuse yourself. The trick with the bladder is it’s antsy. It informs you with the first urge to urinate when it is approximately 40% full. Over time, if you listen at that first urge, the bladder will begin to inform you earlier and earlier until you are going once every 20 minutes. Training your bladder to hold more is achieved with ignoring the urge or practicing various behavioral strategies, like deep diaphragmatic breathing with pelvic floor drops, to allow for longer intervals until your bladder capacity is within normal limits. This can be a longer process for those with a more sensitive bladder.  

Bladder training is complicated by pain. Pain usually must be treated simultaneously in order to truly get the most benefit from bladder retraining. It is also important to realize that substances like caffeine and alcohol increase urgency and make bladder training more difficult.    

How to Manage Bladder Issues:

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do, RIGHT now to manage your bladder symptoms. I find that in my practice and everyday life, there is a certain fatalism about bladder conditions. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard phrases like, “ I just have a small bladder”, “Women my age after babies just leak”, “I am older so I pee more at night” and “it’s always been like this”. The bladder is a trainable organ and the muscles influencing it can be stretched and strengthened like any other muscle in the body. The best part is there is so much you can do for yourself at home. It’s totally worth trying and in many cases is a life changer.

water-life-cropDiet and fluid intake:

It may sound counter intuitive, but drinking plenty of water is good for almost all bladder conditions. Yes I am talking about leaking, urgency, incomplete emptying and frequency. Drinking lots of water keeps your urine nice and dilute, minimizing the irritation of the bladder wall as well as the reactive spasm of the detrusor muscle. You should drink approximately half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. For example: a 150 lbs person should consume 75 ounces of water a day. You should increase this amount if you are exercising, or experience a lot of sweating or drink a lot of caffeine and or alcohol, which are both dehydrating. It is also important to be mindful of bladder irritants which can worsen bladder issues. Big irritant culprits are alcohol, caffeine, citrus, and spicy food. In children, dairy milk is a common bladder irritant.  Keep in mind that one person’s bladder irritant may not be your bladder irritant. It’s easy to look at lists of bladder irritants and get overwhelmed. Try eliminating a suspected offender for two to three days. If you feel better when you aren’t consuming that item and worse when you add it back in, consider eliminating that item from your diet.  It is also important to eat in a way that prevents constipation, as this worsens bladder symptoms and puts extra pressure on the bladder.  

Posture

If you are having problems fully emptying your bladder or you have post void leakage ( dribbles following going to the bathroom) consider your toileting posture. People with bladder issues should sit on the toilet ( even dudes), to allow the pelvic floor muscles to relax and allow the bladder to fully empty.

Bladder Training

If you have bladder frequency or leakage  now is the time to try and train your bladder to hold more urine. Keep in mind you should start treatment to address pain with physical therapy and in certain cases, with medication, to allow you to be successful with bladder training. I always tell my patients to start their bladder retraining at home, where a bathroom is available to take the stress out of possible leaks or not being able to find a bathroom. Start by simply waiting to go to the bathroom 5-10 minutes past your first urge to urinate. Use behavioral strategies, such as deep breathing and pelvic floor drops, mindfulness, distraction and others.  If you don’t have to go after 5-10 minutes, Great! If you do, go to the bathroom. As waiting 10 minutes becomes easy, stretch your time to 20 minutes and so on until you are able to go 2-3 hours in between urination.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is considered a mainstay and top treatment for musculoskeletal causes of bladder disorders and bladder pain.  Expert pelvic floor physical therapists are clinicians who can find the cause of your bladder issues and provide you with a customized plan that will provide you with the best results possible. PT’s can work to relax spasmed muscles, treat constipation contributing to bladder issues, improve your toilet posture, reduce tightness around the bladder, abdominal and thigh region that can contribute to bladder dysfunction, as well as strengthen weak muscles. If you are experiencing bladder issues, please come see us.  There is so much we can do to help!

Sources:

Berghmans L, Hendriks H, Van Waalwijk, et al. Conservative treatment of urge urinary incontinence in women: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. BJU Int. 2000; 85: 254-63

Chancellor, M, Yoshimura N. Neurophysiology of stress incontinence. Rev Urol. 2004; 6(Suppl3)S19-S28

Chang H, Lynm C, Glass R, et al. Urinary incontinence in older women. JAMA, 2010; 303(21): 2208

FitzGerald M, Brensinger C, Brubaker L, et al. What is the pain of interstitial cystitis like?. International Urogynecology Journal Including Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. 2005

Shafik A, Shafik I. Overactive bladder inhibition in response to pelvic floor muscle exercises. World J Urol. 2003 May; 20(6):347-7. Epib. Apr 4

Tightly Wound: A film chronicaling one women’s experience with vaginismus

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At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we treat a lot of conditions that limit or entirely prevent someone from having sex. One of those conditions is Vaginismus. The frustration and physical toll can be tiring for patients with this condition. One of the sentiments echoed time and time again by different patients, is how isolating the whole experience can be. Not many people talk about their sex life, let alone medical conditions affecting their ability to have sex. Shelby Hadden is looking to break the stigma by making her own film chronicling her experience with vaginismus. You can read her story and support her Kickstarter campaign here to fund her movie.

I was 24 and had never had sex. I had been dating Gadi for a few weeks and I couldn’t play defense to his advances any longer. It was time to tell him about my vaginismus.

Vaginismus was always the big black cloud of a secret looming over me.

But he surprised me. When I told him about it, he said, “I like you a lot, and we can figure this out. I still want to see you.” My heart soared. No guy I had dated up to that point had showed me an ounce of empathy, patience, or understanding. One guy walked out of my apartment, promised to call me, and never spoke to me again. Another laughed in my face and said, “That’s hilarious.” Finally, someone liked me as a whole person, not just the functionality of one body part.

The next day, he texted me this: “I’ve been thinking about what you shared with me the other night. I feel like it may be a bit more than I am ready for in a relationship. Sex is too important to me.”

He couldn’t even bother to consider what else we could do or ask how my progress in physical therapy was going. I couldn’t do it RIGHT THEN so I was “too much” for him – which in reality, in situations like these, it means that I wasn’t enough.

I was angry. I’ve been angry before – at other guys, at my body, at doctors, at Shonda Rhimes shows for making sex look so easy, fast, and fun – but this time I was absolutely furious. He gave me the reaction I had always hoped for, only to take it all back. I was just a vagina to him too. In addition, he never considered how important sex was to me. I had gone to a dozen doctors over the course of seven years. I had been going pelvic floor physical therapy every week for over a year. I had been using dilators every day for three years. No one was working harder to have sex than I was.

I needed to take action. As a filmmaker, the only way I knew how to take control over it was to make a film. So I wrote an essay, which I later turned into a script for a short animated film called, Tightly Wound.

Tightly Wound follows my journey from when I started my period and realized I couldn’t use a tampon. It chronicles the various doctors I saw and treatments I tried, the ways I hid my secret. I delve into my unsuccessful attempts at dating and explore what it means to be a virgin in today’s society.

It’s been a year since Gadi broke up with me. My essay has been published in BUST Magazine and I shared my experience at BedPost Confessions – an Austin, TX based storytelling series on sex, gender, and social change. I’ve assembled an extremely talented team of filmmakers to produce the film.

Animation is the perfect form for this film. It allows me to illustrate my internal thoughts and feelings in a metaphorical way rather than succumbing to the limitations of live-action. However, animation is an extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive process. The fastest my animator, producer, and friend, Sebastian Bisbal, can work is 5 seconds of animation per day!

 

We are raising $20,000 through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform that allows people to support projects they believe in. Kickstarter is all-or-nothing – so if we don’t raise the $20,000, we don’t get any of it at the end of November.

It is estimated that 6% [ In a  study done by the World Health Organization, worldwide prevalence of pelvic pain has been estimated as being as high as 24%] of people with vaginas encounter pelvic pain/sexual dysfunction at some point of their lives. However, this is a difficult number to determine since shame and embarrassment keep so many people from seeking medical care.

Please join me in making this film and shining a light on pelvic pain/sexual dysfunction by donating to the Kickstarter. Thank you so much for your support!

Kickstarter link: http://kck.st/2dUTASv

Check out the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/188456092

Sincerely,

Shelby Hadden

 

Sources:

Latthe P, Latthe M, Say L, et al. WHO systematic review of prevalence of chronic pelvic pain: a neglected reproductive health  morbidity. BMB Public Health. 2006

BBPT Health Tip: Eat your Fiber

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Fiona McMahon, DPT, PT

What is fiber?

Fiber, it’s the hot ticket. It is being marketed to us like crazy. But why is fiber is so important? What fiber is best? Should you get more fiber with supplements? Let’s take a closer look into the benefits of fiber in this edition of BBPT’s Health tips.

Fiber is the part of food that we cannot digest. It is separated into two types, soluble and insoluble. Both bulk up the contents of your stomach and colon, which can help you feel more full but after that, the similarities end.

As the name implies, soluble fiber dissolves in water but insoluble does not. Insoluble fiber increases the mass of the stool and helps to get things moving, in terms of passing feces. Soluble fiber absorbs water. The truth is, most people are not getting enough fiber. Less than half of people in the United States consume the recommended amount of fiber. Let’s discuss the benefits of fiber and how to make sure you are getting enough.

So what if you don’t have issues going number 2? What else can fiber help you with?

Fiber has been shown to help with reducing the risk of the following conditions:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Fiber has also been shown to:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity in people who have diabetes
  • Enhance weight loss
  • Improve GI conditions like acid reflux, duodenal ulcers, diverticulitis, constipation, and hemorrhoids
  • Enhance the function of the immune system

How much to eat and where to get it?

Men under 50 years and under should consume at least 38 grams of fiber daily, Women under 50 should consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily. Women over 50 should eat at least 21 grams and men over 50 should get 30.  Those who suffer from constipation may add more to your diet.   We suggest contacting a nutritionist for proper amounts of soluble versus insoluble in these cases and anyone with a history of GI issues.  Also, please discuss with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.  

Adding  fiber to your diet when you are not used to it can sometimes be a little difficult. If you add too much too quickly, you may experience gas and bloating. Start slow and work your way up.  Also, drink plenty of water.

Start by adding in whole wheat items (unless you have a gluten sensitivity), legumes, fruits, and vegetables slowly to your diet. Check out the Mayo Clinic’s full list of fiber rich foods here .

Sources

Anderson J, Baird P, Davis R, et al. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009. 67(4)188-205

Family Doctor.org Decermber 2010: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/food-nutrition/nutrients/fiber-how-to-increase-the-amount-in-your-diet.printerview.all.html. Accessed November 11, 2016.

Medlineplus. Soluble vs. insoluble fiber.https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm. Accessed November 17,2016.  

Benefits of Pilates with Pain Conditions

By: Amy Stein, PT, DPT & Denise Small, PT, DPT
deniseDenise Small, Physical Therapist and resident Pilates instructor spoke on the differences between Pilates’ practices, and what aspects are important for her patients with chronic pelvic pain. Denise is third generation instructor of Joseph Pilates’ technique. She has also taken supplemental training courses with Eric Frankel and Thomas Myers, both well-known body workers and movement therapy practitioners.

Denise explores movement patterns in her patients that may have caused pain in the past, and are now labeled as something to fear. Patients try to avoid these movements; however, they are necessary for healthy functional mobility. Denise uses the Pilates method to explore these movements, and to make them pain free and more familiar. Denise is guided by Pilates’ 8 movements principles, which are the staples of Joseph Pilates’ methodology.

They are:

1. Whole Body movement- all structures are involved, even if they are not moving.

2. Breathing- Pilates refers to this as an internal shower, or a massage for your internal organs. This also helps coordinate your movement, using breath as your internal rhythm.

3. Balanced muscle development: concentric and eccentric movements happen in synchronicity with the use of the Pilates’ springs.

4. Concentration and focus: Required for all of the above to be performed together

5. Control- Pilates is not about repetitions and muscle bulk. Pilates is about Form and coordination of all the movement principles. If all of the movement principles are being incorporated, one needs only to perform 8-10 repetitions of each exercise for maximum benefit.

6. Centering- Pilates heals the mind and body, by bringing your attention to your core. That is: the abdominal wall, the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, and the deep spinal extensors.

7. Precision- If the movement is specific, there is very little room for error

In addition to being guided by the movement principles, Denise has a few staples of her own, that she uses to frame her sessions. First, Denise believes that you need to have tissue mobility before stability. For example, one needs to be able to move their abdominal muscles before they can begin strengthening their abdominal muscles. If a patient’s abdominal wall is hard, then it is not necessarily strong. A strong abdomen is a part of a strong core. A strong core requires fluid coordination of the diaphragm, pelvic floor, the spinal extensors, and the abdominal wall with movement. This lack of coordination may be observed when a patient is performing an abdominal strengthening exercise. Does the patient hold their breath? Are they tucking in the tailbone and gripping their pelvic floor muscles? Does their abdomen bulge? Many of these compensations can be avoided with the use of breath while performing more subtle core exercises, like marching, before progressing to more advanced exercises.

Second, Denise always highly recommends rolling out your patient’s feet before doing any mat or reformer work. Studies have shown that the fascia of your feet is directly connected to the fascia of your core, pelvis, and spine. So, if you release your plantar fascia, you can release restrictions all the way through your legs and torso. Once the muscles and fascia of your feet are more pliable one can better align their skeleton, from the domes of their feet to the roof of their mouth.

Lastly, Denise likes to use as few cues as possible to not confuse or overwhelm the patient. In addition, her cues are oriented around the bones. Bones are easier for patients to visualize, and focusing on the bones alleviates the possibility of dysfunctional muscle recruitment; i.e. gripping. For example, for pelvic floor muscle tightness and pain conditions, Denise cues widening the sits bones with squatting and inhalation. The patient/client needs to work on letting go of the muscles and the sits bones, while we work on eccentric control. To learn more about Denise, visit her bio and our Pilates program .  Also see her recently published health tip to get started.

PH101: How does pregancy & childbirth affect my body? With childbirth educator, Ashley Brichter

Fiona McMahon, DPT, PT

pregnancy

Having a baby is exciting, fascinating, and nerve wracking. If you have never been through the process before, chances are you have a lot of questions and concerns about what changes your body will go through during your pregnancy, what the birthing process entails, and how your recovery will go once you’ve had your baby.

Join us  and childbirth specialist, Ashley Brichter, in our final Pelvic Health class of the year to discuss the ins and outs of having a child.

Keep an eye out for our next round of Pelvic Health 101 classes coming this spring!

 

Register at pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com  today.

Location:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

 

Time: 7pm on November 17th, 2016

BBPT Health Tip: Diaphragmatic Breathing

just-breathe-in-cloudsFiona McMahon DPT, PT

WE LOVE DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING! We do, we really do and we hope you will too. What is diaphragmatic breathing you ask? Diaphragmatic breathing is a form of deep breathing where you breath deeply into your stomach. As you breath in, you will actually see your belly extend and get bigger, and as you breath out, your belly will return to it’s old spot. It’s not like our typical breathing patterns where we breath from the chest; it is a much more deep and deliberate breath.

Why We love Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing accomplishes a lot in the body. First of all, it supplies the body with a large dose of oxygen, which is pretty obvious, but it is a much more robust breath than a simple chest breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing also works wonders on the tissues of both the abdomen and the pelvic floor. By taking a big diaphragmatic breath in, the diaphragm lowers and provides a gentle stretch to the tissues and organs of the belly as well as the pelvic floor. As you breath in you are actually providing a nice stretch to the pelvic floor.

Deep breaths can also calm down the nervous system and allow you to better relax. When you are more relaxed your body can attend to the day to day tasks such as digestion and healing. It really is amazing what some deep breaths can do.

How to breathe diaphragmatically

Start off by putting one hand on your chest, at about the area of your breastbone. Place the other hand on your stomach. You can do diaphragmatic breathing just about anywhere, so get in a position that is comfortable for you. Start by slowly breathing in. In order to tell if you are using your diaphragm, you should feel the hand on your stomach move more than the hand on your chest. As you breath in, bring your awareness to your ribs and feel them expand out to the side and back.  Finish by slowly breathing out. The out breather should be longer than the inhale. It is really that easy.

How does one actually use diaphragmatic breathing?

Really you can use it in anyway you need too. Some people find it tremendously helpful to do 10 diaphragmatic breaths every hour, while others employ deep breathing techniques in times of stress or pain. The important thing about diaphragmatic breathing, or any exercise for that matter is consistency. Try to at least get in 20 deep breaths a day.

PH101: Reproductive Health and Nutrition with Melissa Stendahl, DPT & Nutritionist Jessica Drummond, MPT, CCN, CHC.

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Fiona McMahon, DPT

Being able to get pregnant is sometimes a little harder than society will have us believe. The female reproductive system is a complex and intricate part of our bodies and there are many factors that go into fertility. If having children is a goal of yours, do not miss our free reproductive health seminar on November 10th at 7pm with nutritionist, Kamila Veljkovic and physical therapist, Melissa Stendahl. They will be discussing how both nutrition and pelvic and abdominal tissue health can optimize your reproductive function and help with painful reproductive conditions like endometriosis and pain with intercourse.

 

Register at pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com  today.

Location

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

 

Check out our upcoming courses!

Pelvic Health 101 Fall- (003)