How to Improve Bladder Health

Bladder

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

 

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 can reduce support for the bladder and lead to leaking. For more information on prostate cancer click here  and for more info on prostatitis, click here!

Another important difference between people with female and male anatomy are the respective length of their urethras. Male urethras are a lot longer than female urethras. This is one of the reasons people with female anatomy 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

Incontinence

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.
  • 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.

Diet 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

PH101: Potty Issues with Kiddos

happy kid play superhero , boy power concept

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Did you know kids can suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction too? Pelvic floor dysfunction in children can result in pain, bladder holding or constipation, embarrassing soiling accidents, frequent nighttime accidents, as well as trouble going potty. For most kids, there is an underlying physical component that needs to be addressed by an expert pediatric pelvic floor physical therapist.

It is very upsetting for a parent, guardian or caregiver to see a child suffer with pain or embarrassment, but there is so much that can be done to help out children with these issues. We use positive charts to develop short term and achievable goals to reinforce  behaviors and steps towards healthy toileting. Simple techniques like using the improving toilet posture, practicing deep breathing with bubbles, using a timer to assist in times voiding, educating the parent/guardian/caregiver on the colon massage, developing a core stability and stretching program, and more can go a long way towards improving bowel and bladder symptoms.

If your child is suffering from urinary or fecal accidents, bed wetting, skidmarks, or painful defecation, join me on November 15, at 7pm , to discuss pelvic floor dysfunction in children, common conditions affecting pottying, and practical tips you can use to make potty time easier.

This is our last Pelvic Health 101 class of the spring series. We want to thank for an awesome season! Keep your eyes on the blog for the Fall’s PH101 classes!

RSVP: pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com

 

PH101: Improve Your Birthing Experience

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 Pelvic Health class to discuss the ins and outs of having a child.

Register at pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com  today.

Location:

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Time: 7pm on November 8th, 2017

Pelvic Health 101 Fall 2017

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

breast cancer awareness

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

It’s here again. You can see pink on everything, ribbons, coffee cups, even football players. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women in the developed world. Over the years a concerted effort has been made to raise awareness for early screening and treatment of breast cancer to help save lives. We go over the basics about breast cancer screening in last year’s Breast cancer awareness blog which you can check out here.

For this year’s blog we are going to take a more physical therapy centric approach and talk about what happens from a functional standpoint, once you are finished with treatment and how you can help yourself to reduce pain, improve strength, and mobility with physical therapy.

There are different treatments for breast cancer, and based on the specific type (there are many different types) and how advanced it is, as well as personal considerations. It is important to manage recovery from your treatment as you would any other procedure. Although survival rates are improving, which is excellent news, it was found in an Australian study that 62% experienced an upper extremity impairment and approximately 27% had 4-6 impairments 6 years later. An impairment in the upper extremity can be described as loss of range of motion, which can impair one’s ability to groom oneself, clean, etc. Other impairments can include pain, loss of strength, and lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition in which the body’s ability to filter return fluid and waste products out of a limb is impaired and severe swelling as well as permanent tissue changes can occur.

Physical therapy can be a wonderful and helpful tool in treating symptoms following breast cancer treatment and the benefit can extend beyond just symptoms following surgery. In the study cited below, hormonal and radiotherapies were the top contributors to pain. The good news is, physical therapists, especially the one’s at Beyond Basics are specially trained to recognize and treat chronic pain syndromes. Physical therapists may use techniques such as nervous system down training, gentle exercises and expert massage techniques to help lessen pain.

It may seem obvious, but if you are experiencing any difficulty with the strength or mobility of your shoulder or upper extremity, you should see a physical therapist right away. Scar tissue and fibrosis from your original treatment can severely reduce your ability to move your shoulder and the quicker it is identified and treated, the faster and easier treatment will be.

Patient’s experiencing swelling in their arm following breast cancer treatment should see a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT). CLT’s are physical therapists who enroll in rigorous training to be able to treat and manage lymphedema. Lymphedema should be managed aggressively to prevent permanent tissue changes. We at Beyond Basics are lucky to have Victoria Lamanna PT, DPT, CLT working with us. She is specially trained to treat complex lymphedema cases and will be able to perform manual lymphatic drainage, fit compression garments, and provide you with lifestyle changes to help manage lymphedema.

Once you are done with treatment for breast cancer, it is important to take stock and note how you body feels. If you feel like you aren’t moving the way you used to, there is something that can be done and physical therapy is a great option from routine orthopedic care to higher level pain management and lymphedema treatment. If PT sounds right to you, give Beyond Basics Physical Therapy a call today or search the Lymphedema Education and Resource Network for a LANA certified lymphedema therapist near you.

Also check out our other blogs on lymphedema physical therapy:

Sources:

Hidding J, Beurskens C, van der Wees P. Treatment Related Impairments in Arm and Shoulder Patients with Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review. PLOS ONE. May 2014;9(5): e96748

The Day in the Life….of a Working Mom Who Loves What She Does and Would do Anything for her Family

By, Amy Stein, DPT (Founder and owner of Beyond Basics Physical Therapy; President of the International Pelvic Pain Society; Author of award-winning book: Heal Pelvic 

Amy was presenting on the benefits of physical therapy in individuals with Multiple Sclerosis(MS) . In addition to our educational outreach, we are collecting money for NYC’s TISCH ‘s MS research arm through the New York City Marathon. Please Click here to donate.  

amy2016I had an amazing, and thank goodness a positive spin during and after my talk at the TISCH Multiple Sclerosis Patient Summit on Sunday. Thank you to Dr. Sadiq, Dr. Kanter, Dr. Williams and Pamela Levin for the invitation to share my expertise. I was so honored and felt blessed to be asked to speak at this conference. There were 1,200 people registered…..no pressure! And when I walked in prior to my talk, I saw the below photos on three HUGE screens! Again, no pressure. I practiced my breathing and my confidence building. Jessica Babich, DPT met me there to set up our table. She was a huge help, considering they wanted me to mic up right away.

I had practiced the material quite a bit so felt confident that it would go well…..and it did! I ran through everything in the 20 minutes I had and then had tons of questions after, of which I could only answer 4 in the time allotted.

A couple questions:

1. Does pelvic PT still work/can it be beneficial while a person is getting botox into the bladder?

Most definitely if the pelvic floor muscles are involved.

2. Does bladder frequency change when you have MS?

It shouldn’t change too much. If it does, as  pelvic physical therapists, we teach you strategies to manage this.

3. How often should you go to the bathroom at night if you have MS?

I am not sure there are any studies on this, but I would say no more than 2 times. We give our patients strategies to help with nighttime frequency as well.

After the Q and A, I felt like I was on cloud nine, because I gave a lot of great info in a short period of time….I sat down, and picked up my phone to take photos and noticed 2 missed calls and multiple texts from my sitter and a friend (my husband was away on a motorcycle trip). I thought….uh oh, because it had only been 30 minutes. Sure enough, the call that all mothers expect at some point, but hope it never happens….My son, Zachary had fallen off the jungle gym and it looked like he needed stitches. Thank goodness for babysitters and good friends! I explained the situation to a few colleagues from TISCH and praised Jessica at her awesomeness for taking charge, and I left immediately. My boy was a champ, and didn’t cry, even when he got the 8 stitches in his head….as I almost passed out!

In the end, amazing meeting and opportunity, and a strong and brave boy. What could a working mom ask for! I count my blessings every day!

J babs and Amy Stein
Jessica Babich and Amy Stein
Screens
These are the big screens I was talking about!
Zacary and Zoe
My Kids, Zachary and

PH 101: Optimizing Reproductive Function

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 1st at 7pm we 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 pelvichealth101.eventbrite.com  today.

Location

110 East 42nd Street, Suite 1504

New York, NY

10017

Check out our upcoming courses!

Pelvic Health 101 Fall 2017

Physical Therapy Month

NPTMLogoColor

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

October is National Physical Therapy Month. During Physical Therapy Month we take time to inform the public about the benefits of physical therapy as well as focus on a particular issue affecting the lives of our patients. This month the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) has decided to address the current opioid crisis. At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we addressed the treatment of chronic pain and the effect opioids can have in the blog titled “Navigating Life with Chronic Pain: Part 1 “. I highly recommend looking back at this blog to learn more about the pain science behind chronic pain and what you can do to treat it. Keep you eyes open for our upcoming blog, “Navigating Chronic Pain”: Part 2, for more on specific treatments.

For October’s Physical Therapy Month, the APTA has decided to address specific policy changes that need your support to help fight the opioid epidemic. The time for addressing the opioid epidemic is now (honestly, it should have been years ago). According to the APTA, 1 in 3 opioid users report they are physically addicted to opioids, and 4 in 5 new heroin users begin their addiction by misusing opioids. Even more staggering, heroin deaths now outnumber deaths due to gun homicides. This issue is an issue we, at all levels of healthcare must fight.

The APTA is advocating for these 6 policy changes to help fight the opioid crisis

1.Repeal the Medicare Therapy Cap: To allow patients on medicare to receive the care they need from their physical therapist

2. Remove Federal and State Restrictions that Impede Access to a Physical Therapist: Allow patients to see physical therapists without an MD’s referral

3. Ensure Comprehensive Insurance Coverage for Physical Therapy

4. Provide Fair Physical Therapy Copays Under Insurance: Reduce high copays and deductibles for physical therapy to lessen the incentive to turn to cheaper opioids over physical therapy as a pain treatment.

5. Allow Physical Therapists to Perform to the Full Extent of Their Education and Training: Physical therapists hold doctoral degrees and should be allowed to practice their full scope of services.

6. Protect Patient Choice of Physical Therapy Treatment: Patients should be able to select the therapist of their choice, not the one the MD selects.

If you have chronic pain, please choose physical therapy first. It is a much safer and more effective option than opioids. The physical therapists at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy are well trained and experienced in treatment of chronic pain conditions. Call today.