Pelvic Floor MythBusters! Don’t eat lemon to avoid bladder pain, true or false?

alcoholic beverage bubble citrus
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Hey guys!  If you have bladder pain, you probably have done some reading about bladder irritants. Lemon, dairy, spicy foods have all been rumored to spike bladder pain. But is this really the case? With everyone? Before you put down your lemon water, let’s dissect the truths, and kinda truths about bladder irritants in this month’s Pelvic Floor Mythbuster’s.

Truth be told there are a lot of different ways the bladder can go sideways. You can experience an urge to urinate that is so frequent it disrupts your everyday tasks. You can experience strong urge that feels impossible to repress. You may experience leaking. You may experience pain in your bladder while it fills, while you empty it, or immediately after emptying it. Can diet cure all these ills? In some cases, maybe. But in many cases, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Read on as I run through why we consider diet with bladder issues, what else may be at play, and some practical advice on how to manage an unruly bladder.

Common Bladder Conditions

Before we go over bladder irritants, lets go over some of the most common bladder ailments we see here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy.

Urgency: Urgency can best be described as having a sudden need to urinate which is either extremely difficult or impossible to delay

Frequency: In most people, going to the bathroom every 2-3 hours is normal going more frequently is considered frequency. But keep in mind, you may experience more frequency after drinking a lot of water all at once or after having caffeine, alcoholic and carbonated beverages.

Hesitancy: Hesitancy is difficulty starting the stream of urine.

Pain: Pain seems pretty simple, but if you visit us at BBPT we usually will ask you more questions than “do you have pain? Yes or no?” We will ask where the pain is, and if you have pain with bladder filling, emptying, or urgency which can tell us a lot about what to do about the problem. We will ask what makes the pain better or worse?

Nocturia (nighttime bathroom trips): Unless you have had a ton of water right before bed, it is generally accepted that getting up 1 or more times a night to pee if you are under 65 and more than 1 time a night to pee if you are over 65 is considered nocturia.

Stress incontinence: Stress incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine usually associated with activity, like running, lifting, coughing, laughing and sneezing.

Urge Incontinence: Urge incontinence is the loss of urine with a strong urge to pee.

Mixed Incontinence: As the name would imply, mixed incontinence is a combination of both urge and stress incontinence.

How Can What We Eat Affect our Bladders?

The science community isn’t really sure yet what causes certain foods to irritate certain people’s bladders, but they have some good hypotheses. In the case of pain, some scientists have proposed that people who are affected by food may have linings of the bladder that are less protective from the irritating material found in pee, especially pee that contains irritants from certain foods. Some evidence supports “cross talk” between different organs in that things that irritate the bowel, may irritate the bladder. Also it is believed in cases where the nerves are more sensitive, which can happen in cases of chronic pain, diet can more easily cause symptoms to spike.

So What to do About Irritants?

There is a saying I say a lot. Everybody is different and every body is different. This saying could not be more true when it comes to bladder irritants. Not everyone’s bladder is irritated by the same thing. You can find a list of common bladder irritants here . Did you click it? Totally overwhelming, am I right? The thing is my bladder irritant may not be your bladder irritant. The best way to find out what is your irritant, is to eliminate items you may suspect as being irritants for three to four days and add them back in to see if they bother you. If you find that you are really unsure what is bothering you or you have a history of disordered or restrictive eating. I would highly recommend doing this with the guidance of a trained nutritionist. Not only can a good nutritionist help you detect irritants more efficiently, they also can provide you alternatives, so you have plenty of yummy things to eat during your quest to determine if your diet is bothering your bladder as well as keep you safe if you have had or are currently struggling with disordered eating.

The Bladder and The Pelvic Floor

All of the conditions listed earlier in this blog can be caused entirely or in part by the pelvic floor. Hopefully experimenting with eliminating bladder irritants improved your symptoms at least somewhat. But if it hasn’t, it may be time to consider the pelvic floor. Both pelvic floors that are weak and tight and weak and loose can contribute to the symptoms outlined above. Often times combining dietary changes with pelvic floor rehab can provide the right synergy to get over the hump and to start feeling better again.

Practical Bladder Tips

  • Normal voiding frequency is once every 2-3 hours. If you find you can not make it that long and don’t have pain, try lengthening the time between “goes” 10-15 minutes at a time and practice deep diaphragmatic breathing in the interim.
  • If you experience sudden urge, DON’T PANIC! Rushing often makes it worse. Breath slowly and calmly make your way to the toilet.
  • When hesitancy strikes, breath deeply. If you have male reproductive organs, try sitting on the toilet to relax the pelvic floor and make peeing easier.
  • Avoid drinking water 2 hours before bedtime if you are experiencing nocturia.
  • If you are constipated, work on managing that problem. The bladder lives right in front of the rectum. A large backup of stool will press on the bladder, irritating it and reducing its holding capacity.

Conclusions

Are bladder irritants really a thing, yes for some people and we are still trying to figure out why. If you are having trouble tackling your bladder problems. Come give us a visit at BBPT so we can get you feeling better! Also check out Amy Stein’s book for more ways you can deal with bladder pain.

Friedlander J, Shorter B, Moldwin R. Diet and its role in interstitial cystitis/ bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) and comorbid conditions. BJUI. 109. 1584-91

Molly completes the NYC Marathon!

On November 3rd 2019, Molly Caughlan completed the New York City Marathon for the very first time! We at Beyond Basics are so proud and overjoyed for her! She ran to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Read her last update before the big race, here!

I sit here writing this blog with just 6 days left to go before the big race. I’ve been tapering down milage, taking time to rest, stretch, and strengthen. The forecast, fingers crossed, is looking very ideal with highs in the mid 50s and looking like sunshine all day. I’m nervous, excited, and feeling confident that I’m going to cross that finish line.

Since my last blog, I’ve hit just a few bumps in the road with my training. In September right before a critical long run (my first 18 mile run), I had an acute onset of posterior tibialis tendonitis that made it difficult to even walk on. I was devastated and had to hold on running any distance all together. I was feeling incredibly anxious because of how close I was getting to the big day and at the thought of skipping such an important training notch. While I was healing, I did a Hot Vinyasa class that I hadn’t done in a while that help me hit a reset button and set up a strategy to manage these symptoms. I took a whole week off from running and had two sessions with Tina as well as doing some self treatment with modalities (ice/heat). I also had an acupuncture treatment with something called dry needling to my calves with a treatment for chi energy deficiency. With ALL of these treatments combined, the first run I did I was FLYING! I had so much energy and was going at such a fast pace that I shaved a few minutes off of my traditional 5 mile run. Things have been looking up since that week in September and looking back now, resting was the most important treatment I could have done.

As part of my training, I ran the New York Road Runner’s Brooklyn Half Marathon October 19 and had such an amazing time. The end of the race was in Prospect Park, which is essentially my back yard and where I’ve been doing a lot of my training. This helped me to finish strong and break my own personal record for a half marathon with a time of 2:07.

As the days wind down, I’m looking forward to having some of my family members come visit just so they can support me on Sunday. I’ll have support from my local friends on the sidelines and, with the help of modern technology, will have the spiritual support from friends across the country. I’m eager to see all of the other anonymous supporters with their signs and I’m excited to have all of this energy boost me across the finish line.

Last but not least, I must say that I am still working on my $5000 fundraising goal and I’m 71% of the way there. I’m sponsored by an organization called Team Tisch MS​ that performs groundbreaking research to discover the cause of Multiple Sclerosis, understand disease mechanisms, optimize therapies, and repair the damage caused by MS, as well as offering patient access to the best and most advanced treatment possible. Support Team Tisch MS by donating to my fundraiser!

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Pelvic Floor Mythbusters: Is kegeling the one true way to a healthy pelvic floor?

Pelvis Drawing

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT.

Is kegeling the one true way to a healthy pelvic floor? Not always. We can end the blog here. Just kidding, of course there is nuance to be considered here. But as pelvic floor physical therapists, nothing is more cringe inducing than hearing the phrase “just do your kegels” thrown around for myriads of ailments from low libido, to pain, incontinence, and erectile dysfunction. While it is true the pelvic floor muscles can be involved in all of these conditions and in some cases kegels may help, there are many cases where kegels are the EXACT opposite of how you should be treating these muscles.

Physiology

To understand kegels we must first understand the pelvic floor. To understand the pelvic floor we must also explain the muscles at a very basic level. Bare with me readers, this will help us as we bust through this myth. Muscles, all muscles do what they do, by contracting and getting shorter to produce force. This is easy to see on a bodybuilder doing a bicep curl. As she curls her hand up you can see these muscles shortening into a little ball. Not only is this a great way to show off your gains in the gym, the shortening of these muscles are providing the strength to perform this task. We call this shortening a concentric contraction. Kegels are concentric contractions too! A good kegel will cause the pelvic floor to shorten and provide strength. Let’s go back to our body builder for a second. She has done her lift now she needs to lower her dumbbell back to the floor. In order to lower that dumbbell back to the floor in a controlled way, she needs what’s called an eccentric contraction, which is the controlled lengthening of the muscle. If she did not have a good eccentric contraction she may not be able to lower that weight effectively after she curled it. What if she couldn’t lower her bicep at all or just very slowly after her bicep curl? Maybe her weightlifting wouldn’t be as effective, she’d tire more easily, or she could develop pain. Would you tell this woman that more bicep curls would help? Or might you suggest a program of stretching first? Telling someone to do kegels, when you don’t know the status of their pelvic floor and how well it can relax is similar to telling the bodybuilder with the non relaxing bicep to just do more bicep curls. At best it certainly won’t help the situation and at worst it could cause more pain and dysfunction.

“But Fiona, I have incontinence, so that definitely means I have weaknesses, so it’s good for me to do kegels, right?”. Maybe… but in my experience, probably not. Let’s agree on one thing, it’s completely intuitive that people would think that kegels would help incontinence. The muscles of the pelvic floor are responsible for continence… so they must be weak if one is experiencing incontinence. You are right! When we think weak with muscles, we often think weak and loose, which is one form of weakness, but we rarely think weak and tight. Let’s go back to our body builder lady. She deserves a name at this point. Let’s call her Kendra. If Kendra has a tough time moving her lifting her arm from fully straight to a full bicep curl, we could guess she is weak and loose. But if Kendra could not fully straighten her arm out she would be considered weak and tight. Both of these versions of Kendra would have trouble curling heavy weight. One Kendra due to frank weakness another Kendra because she simply does not have enough room or range of motion to generate enough force to curl that dumbell.

Tight and weak pelvic floors are a lot like second Kendra with the poor ability to lengthen her arm. Tight pelvic floors have less range of motion to generate force. You need a good amount of force from the pelvic floor to counteract the pressure of activities like lifting, coughing, laughing and sneezing and stay continent. Over loose and over tight pelvic floors can’t really do that.

If you have pain in your pelvis not from a medical condition, (although tight pelvic floors present with many medical conditions), your pelvic floor is probably tight. A tight pelvic floor may also have trigger points which can send pain to various locations in your genitals, back, legs, and abdomen. Continuing to tighten can cause this pain to get worse.

Treatments

So how do you know what to do? This is where a skilled pelvic floor physical therapist can come in handy. They can assess the muscles by touching them either externally or internally to determine what course of action is right for you. If you are loose and weak, HAPPY DAYS! Strengthening can help them get better. If you have tight and weak muscles, HAPPY DAYS again! Gentle lengthening, stretching and down training of the muscles can help them get better. Did you know, because a tight pelvic floor can cause weakness itself, returning the proper length to the muscles can restore strength, without actually needing to kegel?! Wild! Regardless of the situation happy days can be ahead.

Skilled PT

Really knowing the pelvic floor is a skill and requires advanced expertise.  Kegels should not be initiated, unless the physical therapist has carefully examined your pelvic floor. Not all therapists are trained to do that technique so it is important to inquire about their background before starting pelvic floor PT. There are a lot of different ways to treat the pelvic floor, to read more What is Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy . If you are interested in learning more give us a call at 212- 354-2622 for a free consult if you live in the greater NY/NJ/CT area.

How to Start a New Exercise Program When You’re Feeling Intimidated

How to Start a New Exercise Program When You’re Feeling Intimidated

woman stretching on ground
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Kierstin Elliott

Maybe you were an avid gym-goer, cross fitter, or yogi and then you got injured. Or maybe fitness has never been a part of your life, but now your doctor or PT has told you that a fitness regimen is necessary in order to help you feel like yourself again. Whatever the case may be, you just don’t know where to start, or you feel intimidated to return to what you were doing in the past because that is how you got injured in the first place. My advice is to start slowly. Educate yourself on how and why you got injured and what the next steps are on your road to recovery. Set goals on what you need to accomplish and build a plan to achieve them. Last but not least, train smartly. If you follow this check list, then you should definitely feel more confident moving forward!

It is imperative when you are transitioning from injury rehab to the fitness world, or starting a new exercise program for the first time, that you build a foundation. It is so crucial you stay true to your journey and not compare yourself to others. Trust that progress takes time. Resist the urge to jump right into something new if you’re unsure about form, alignment, and technique.

The first step would be to invest in private sessions. Educate yourself on what you’re getting into and find an expert in what you want to master. Having a coach who devotes the entire hour to your body and your needs will help you garner a deeper understanding of how your breath, body, and mind connect. Learning the proper form with a watchful eye on alignment, will ensure you have a strong foundation to move forward or join group classes.

Once you’ve gained confidence with your new (or old) exercise program, set some fitness goals. You’ve laid a strong foundation and now it’s time to build a skyscraper! Do you want to improve strength, flexibility, endurance? Once you have clear goals set, create a timeline. Establishing a realistic timeline will hold you accountable to sticking with your exercise program and crushing your goals!

The point I’ll end with is to train smartly. No matter what discipline you train in, if you are not focused on form, alignment, and breath control, you are only setting yourself up for future injuries. If you are in a group class, don’t be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear, doesn’t feel quite right, or if you know you need a modification. If you are doing an at home workout on your own, try to do it in front of a mirror to check out your form. If there’s no mirror accessible, simply take it slow and use the knowledge you’ve acquired from a trainer, coach, or PT. Take notes. Practice. Your exercises won’t be perfect the first time you attempt them. Be patient and mindful. It’s all about the journey 🙂

PH101: Ladies Session

By: Fiona McMahon, DPT
Hey Ladies!!! In the next installment of our Pelvic Health 101 course, we are hosting a ladies’ session to allow for a safe and non-threatening place to discuss many issues that can affect the health of your pelvic floor. This class one of Stephanie Stamas’s (the founder of PH101’s ) favorites and is definitely not to be missed. Hear more about it in her video below! Join us at 7pm on October 30th . Please register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

 

Location

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Pelvic Health 101 Flyer-jpeg

How Exercise Can Help Your Recovery From Breast Cancer

awareness cancer design pink
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Have you noticed it yet? Everything is pink. Pink cups, pink pens, pink stickers, pink ribbons, pink everything. The flood of pink that happens every October and reminds us it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you are someone you love has or has had breast cancer, chances are you don’t need any reminding. At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy we have spent a good deal of our blogs discussing the ins and outs of how PT can help with the symptoms following treatment for breast cancer. But what can you do right now to help your health? Emerging research is pointing to the profound importance of exercise on so many facets of well being for individuals with breast cancer. In this blog we will discuss some of the newest findings as well as practical ways to apply these findings in your own life. I hope you choose to read on and please share this with family and friends.

What the researchers are finding:

We know that to say breast cancer treatment can be hard is an understatement. The risk of symptoms like fatigue, sarcopenia (muscle loss), osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairments are all elevated in individuals who are undergoing or have undergone treatment for breast cancer. These symptoms can have a profound impact on quality of life, which breast cancer survivors should not have to accept. Luckily in researching this blog, I found so many studies examining how to improve the quality of life of people going through breast cancer treatment. As a physical therapist, the studies on activity naturally piqued my interest.

Three of the studies I looked at examined how structured and monitored physical activity helped out people undergoing breast cancer treatment and those who had already undergone it. The studies included workout programs consisting of cardio, resistance training, or a combination of both. The studies showed improvements in fatigue, depression, physical fitness, and quality of life immediately following the exercise program. In one of the studies that look at how long these effects lasted, the positive benefits were lost 36 weeks after completing the exercise program.

How to use these findings:

It’s probably not groundbreaking journalism on my part to tell you that exercise is good for you. But what I do find compelling is the amount that good exercise can do, even during treatment. So the question is how to make exercise work for you. First get your doctor’s clearance for exercise, because there may be some exercises to avoid, especially if you have had a mastectomy. Most of the studies I looked at examined structured and monitored programs run by a physical therapist or other healthcare professional, which I would highly recommend especially if you are not used to exercising. A skilled physical fitness professional, like a physical therapist or Pilates instructor can not only help you progress safely through different exercises, but they can also introduce you to fun exercises you may have never thought of. That said, the best exercise is the one you will actually do. Remember, the benefits of exercise will be lost if you aren’t consistent. Cancer treatment can often feel like a full time job and adding another appointment into the mix is often not very practical. The good news is that in the study by Gokal and colleagues, walking independently for 30 minutes 5 times a week reduced self reported cognitive failures in participants. So even if you can’t make it out to see someone, there still is a lot of good you can do for yourself on your own.

Practical tips:

  1. Start slow: be kind to you body and ease yourself back into exercise. “Chunking” or breaking exercise into smaller sessions is a great way to start
  2. Spark Joy: (Shout out to Marie Kondo) but exercise should not be something you dread the thought of. If yoga, or walking makes you wanna crawl under a rock and hide, it’s not for you and that’s okay. Approach exercise curiously and you will find one you love, or at the very least, don’t hate.
  3. Buddy up: in the spirit of sparking joy, having an exercise buddy will not only help you remain accountable, it will probably make the experience a heck of a lot more fun.
  4. Get help when you need it: If you are a brand new exerciser, are in pain, or just feel like your routine is getting stale, see a fitness professional. It’s a short term investment that will pay dividends in the future by making exercise more comfortable and fun.

Keep positive, keep moving and if you have any questions, give us a call!

Dieli- Conwright C, Courneya K, Demark-Wahnefried W, et al. Aerobic and resistance exercise improves physical fitness, bone health, and quality of life in overweight and obese breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial. Breast Cancer Research. 2018; 20 1:24

Gokal K, Munir F, Ahmed S, et al. Does walking protect against decline in cognitive function among breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy? Results from a small randomised controlled trial. PLOS ONE. 2018

Penttinen H, Utriainen M, Kellokumpu-Lehtinen P, et al. Effectiveness of a 12 – month Exercise Intervention on Physical Activity and Quality of Life of Breast Cancer Survivors; Five- year Results of the Brex- study. In Vivo. 2019. 33:881-888

Witlox L, Hiensch A, Velthuis M, et al. Four -year effects of exercise on fatigue and physical activity in patients with cancer. BMC Medicine. 2018; 16:86

PH101: Pain and Sexuality: is it all in my head?

 

By Fiona McMahon, DPT

Sex should feel good… really, really good. But when it doesn’t, you may start to wonder, what’s wrong with me? Am I broken? Am I a prude? Am I frigid? Painful sex isn’t something we talk about. No one would look at you twice if were complaining of pain in your elbow, but in your genitals is a different story.

On October 16th at 7pm, we at Beyond Basics are breaking down those taboos and having an educational seminar, followed by an optional question and answer session at the end. We will discuss the many causes of sexual pain and how physical therapy can help.  The event will be hosted by one of our expert therapists, Stephanie Stamas. Stephanie will give a detailed seminar about pelvic health and take time to clear up some common misconceptions many people have concerning their bodies and sexual function.

Please join us at our office at:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY 10017
Register at: pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

Here is our line up of this and future classes

 

Pelvic Health 101 Flyer-jpeg