Back to school: A to Z with No problem with Pee!

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Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

It’s back to school time! Many of us look back at this time fondly. Reminiscing about the joy of picking out new notebooks, meeting new friends, and trying to put together a perfect back to school look (any 90’s kids remember the Delia*s catalog?) But if you are a kid or a parent dealing with a kid with urinary accidents, the idea of going back to school can be downright terrifying. In this blog, we will go through the causes of urinary incontinence as well as treatments. Here’s the thing, if you only have time to just skim this blog, I want you to know this: Urinary accidents are not your fault, nor your child’s and there are solutions out there to help improve accidents. So keep your and your kiddo’s heads up. It can get better.

In the spirit of back to school, we will start off this blog with some definitions. We can classify bladder accidents in many different ways, which can be helpful when it comes to selecting a course of treatment. Here are ways the medical community may classify your child’s incontinence

Intermittent versus Continuous: Intermittent applies to children who are having discrete individual episodes of incontinence, rather than continuous loss of urine from the bladder. The latter is more suggestive of neurological or anatomical impairment and does require a physician’s attention right away.

Intermittent incontinence can be further classified as primary or secondary. Primary incontinence occurs in children over 5 who have never achieved continence, whereas secondary incontinence occurs in kiddos who have had continence previously for a period of 6 months or more.

Urge Incontinence: Occurs when when a child has a sudden urge to urinate and cannot make it to the potty in time. It is a type of intermittent incontinence.

Stress Incontinence: Occurs when kiddos lose continence with activities like coughing, laughing, and sneezing. It is a type of intermittent incontinence.

Eneuresis or Nighttime Incontinence as the name would imply, this is intermittent urinary incontinence that occurs at night.

So here’s the thing, your child may experience just one type of incontinence or they may experience many types, (i.e. urge, stress, and bedwetting). Regardless of the type of incontinence your child is experiencing, they are not alone. Bedwetting is experienced in nearly 5%-10% of 7 year olds and daytime incontinence is experienced by 5-15 percent of kiddos between 5- 9 years old. It can be helpful to share this fact with your kiddo when they feel alone and isolated. Let them know that there may be several people in their class experiencing the exact same symptoms.

What Causes Incontinence in Kiddos?

In most kiddos, it is rarely one thing exclusively. One of the most common causes of incontinence at BBPT is constipation. The rectum and the bladder are neighbors sandwiched between two relatively immobile bones, the pubic bone in front and the sacrum in back. When a child, or an adult is constipated the rectum can become distended, like a big ol’ balloon. When the rectum is full of poo it squishes the poor little bladder leaving very little room for pee to collect before a child has to go. Furthermore, all that junk in the pelvic floor reduces the feeling that it’s time to go until it is much too late. Even a child that is pooping daily may be constipated. How can that be you may ask? Well, kiddos that are constipated may actually be incompletely evacuating resulting in a build up of stool in the abdomen. Signs besides bowel frequency that your child may be constipated include, abdominal pain, large painful bowel movements, itchy tushes, or even poo accidents. If you are still unsure, some doctors may do an abdominal x-ray to confirm the presence of large amounts of backed up poo in the abdomen

The pelvic floor is another huge player in urinary issues. The pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles between the pubic bone in front and the tailbone in the back. These muscles help regulate the flow of pee and poo out. Sometimes these muscles are too loose to hold everything in. Often times they actually may be too tight, which can lead to constipation, incomplete urination, and believe it or not, these muscles may also be too weak to hold in waste during play!

We see other factors linked to pediatric incontinence. Keep in mind these factors are correlated with incontinence and may not be necessarily causal. Kinda like a chicken and the egg situation. One may have caused the other or one may have no effect on the other. With correlations, it is often impossible to tell. Here are factors found in the research that have been linked with urinary incontinence in kiddos:

  • Younger age
  • Male sex
  • Black race
  • History of urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Family history of bed wetting.
  • Difficult infant temperament
  • Early toilet training before 2 years
  • Late toilet training after 36 months
  • Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Stressful life events

What to do About Pee Accidents

We have established that having urinary accidents as a child is pretty common. So the first thing to do, and I’m serious here, is remind yourself and your kiddo that you are not alone and that it is not your fault. Keep saying it until it sinks in. Potty issues can come with the extra burden of guilt and shame. Let it go. It is no longer serving you or your kiddo.

Now, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Although childhood incontinence has a 15% spontaneous cure rate every year after age 7, it leaves out a whopping 85% of kiddos who deserve being able to play and go to fun activities like sleepovers without fear of accidents.

First, get yourself a proactive doctor who will screen for UTI’s. They often don’t show up the same way in kiddos as they do for adults. UTIs can cause incontinence and left untreated, they can be dangerous.

Then get yourself to a qualified pelvic floor physical therapist who has experience working with kids. A qualified pelvic floor physical therapist has the ability to assess the muscles of the pelvic floor in a non-invasive manner to see if weakness or tightness could be a potential culprit. They also are qualified to assess the abdomen to determine if backed up poo from constipation is worsening accidents. Based on what they find, they will taylor a program to help fix any potential barriers your child could be facing on their way to continence.

Things to do now:

  1. Explore Irritants: Certain foods can irritate the bladder and cause accidents. Check out this list {HERE} to explore potential bladder irritants. Keep in mind, not everything irritates everyone. What I would suggest is a blander day followed by a day where you add back in a potential offender. Bladder irritants usually cause irritation within 2 hours, so if you don’t see anything in that timeframe, that item is most likely off the hook.
  2. Schedule the Potty: Kids are so scheduled these days but we need to add potty breaks to the agenda. Having your child attempt to urinate, whether she wants to or not can help. I suggest starting at once every hour during the day and gradually increasing the interval as they succeed. There are watches like the WOBL watch that can help kiddos out, but I also find teachers to be extremely helpful getting a kiddo to visit the bathroom regularly.
  3. Pee at the transition times: This one is from my clinical experience. Make sure your kiddo goes to the bathroom immediately before leaving camp or school. The on the way home accidents are usually the last to clear up . So nip it in the bud ahead of time.
  4. Drink water! But not to close to bed: Your child should be drinking enough water to keep his stool soft and his urine dilute. Dehydration can worsen bladder irritation and constipation, which can in turn worsen incontinence. Just stop water intake 2 hours before bed.
  5. Manage Constipation: Give your kiddo enough time to poo and make sure her diet is varied so her stools are formed but not pellets. If you struggle with this, come see us.

Wrapping it up:

One more time for the people in the back. You are working so hard. I never met a family who is not trying everything for their kiddo. Incontinence is tough, but with PT and support it can get better. If trying these steps is not working for you, come see us.

 

Check out Amy’s book Heal Pelvic Painwhich includes a chapter on the pediatric pelvic floor.

Baird D, Seehusen D, Bode D. Enuresis in children: a case based approach. American Family Physician. 90(8) 2015

Maternik M, Krzeminska K, Zurowska A. The management of childhood urinary incontinence. Pediatr Nephrol (2015) 30:41-50

Vasconcelos M, East P, Blanco et al. Early behavioral risks for childhood and adolescent daytime urinary incontinence and nocturnal enuresis. J Behav Pediatric. 2017; 38 (9): 736-42

Von Gontard A, Kutwertz-Bröking. The diagnosis and treatment of enuresis and functional daytime incontinence. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2019; 116 279-85

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 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948

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.

The Scoop When Kids Have Trouble with Poop

 

Kiddo

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

I spend a lot of my time at work talking about poop. In fact, poop discussions run in my family. My great grandmother, a nurse in the 1920’s, would always inquire about her charges and her children’s movements when they’d complain of any ailment. This scatological interest was passed to my grandfather, a civil engineer, designing and working in wastewater treatment plants, to my mother who was a nurse practitioner, who dealt with digestive issues and famously asked a guest at her parents’ dinner party when she was a child, “how are your bowel movements, lately?” This familial interest in the distal end of the alimentary canal was bequeathed unto me and I now spend much of my working life trying to help people of all ages with issues defecating to live more comfortable and full lives when it comes to bowel movements.

Anyone who has had any issues concerning their ability to poop, or to hold it, can attest to how much havoc issues with bowel movements can cause in one’s life. This is especially true when it comes to children. Children often have continence requirements to attend school, camp, and other activities. Not to mention other children may not always be very kind to another child who is experiencing difficulty with their bowels. Aside from the obvious issues of constipation and incontinence, kids with bowel issues can experience other symptoms like pain in their belly or with defecation, foul body odor, problems with their bladder, including incontinence, as well as skidmarks in their underwear or itchy bums. It really does all come down to poop.

The largest driver of bowel problems in kids is constipation. Constipation is surprisingly common and occurs in 4-36% of children. It accounts for 3% of visits to the pediatrician and 30% of visits to pediatric gastroenterologists. Constipation can be tricky to diagnose and many people who have children who are constipated, do not identify constipation as the culprit for issues like bowel and urinary incontinence, and pain. According to Afzar and colleagues, constipation would be missed nearly 50% of the time in children, if infrequent bowel movements was the only criteria used in assessing constipation in children.

So what criteria do we use to assess constipation in kiddos? We obviously look at how often a child is defecating. Two or less bowel movements a week is considered constipation, but it is important to keep in mind that a child with difficulty evacuating may move one or two small pellets multiple times a day and still be severely constipated.  Check out the Bristol Stool Chart here to determine if your child’s BM’s are normal. Types one and 2 indicated constipation. Bowel incontinence is also an indicator of constipation in children. In fact, 90% of children with constipation experience fecal soiling. Kiddos with large fecal masses felt in the rectum by a doctor or through the abdomen, those with history of painful bowel movements, and those who produce large toilet clogging poops are exhibiting symptoms of constipation. Children with constipation may also exhibit retentive posture in an effort to prevent painful bowel movements. They may go up on their toes, squeeze their butt cheeks and thighs together, cry, and rock back and forth. Retentive postures can trick parents into thinking their child is trying to defecate when in fact they are working hard to keep everything inside. If you see any of these symptoms in a child under 4 years lasting for a month, and over 2 months in kids over 4, you are dealing with constipation

Constipation can be divided into two different types, functional and constipation due to an organic or pathological cause. Around 95% of constipation in both adults and children is considered functional. Functional constipation can occur for a variety of different reasons in children. One of the most common reasons is that children can get in the habit of delaying or trying to prevent defecation. Children are often just as busy as the rest of us. They may simply be too busy in the morning to have a full bowel movement. Once they arrive at school, they are faced with bathrooms that have doors that may or may not lock, or they may have to contend with intimidating multi-stalled public toilets. Either way both are not conducive to pooping. After school is usually filled with activities and a mad dash to do homework. You can see that it may be very difficult to schedule in a good time to use the toilet. Kids also delay going to the bathroom because it hurts or may be uncomfortable to go. The more they delay their bowel movements, the more uncomfortable it can be to go. Thus creating a negative feedback loop that just feeds back on itself and worsens the constipation symptoms.

Weeks of delay whether it be secondary to pain, scheduling, or plain old distraction, can cause a big build up of poo in the very end of the digestive system, the rectum.  The accumulated fecal matter may be backed up through the  entire length of the colon. This big build up of feces in the rectum causes it to  stretch out.  A stretched out rectum is not good at holding feces in, or sensing that it is time to go to the bathroom, making the problem even worse. Furthermore, soft poo will easily slide by the hard fecal blockage and create smears or “skidmarks” in the underwear, or even more severe incontinence mistakenly labeled diarrhea. Chronic fecal impaction, and fecal withholding can alter how the muscles that control continence work (the pelvic floor), which may further worsen this constipation syndrome. Skidmarks, constipation and fecal incontinence are not anyone’s fault, especially the child’s, but it is a problem that can be solved.

So what to do about all of this? Is it too late if your child has been constipated for a long time? Tackling poo problems in kids is daunting for both parents/guardians alike. The first step is educating yourself, your doctor, and your child. My motto for the kiddos that I treat is, “Accidents are not your fault, but it is your problem to solve.” Letting children know what is happening in their body can help them further internalize this message and become more invested in the process to remedy their symptoms.

Next you have to tackle the poo situation inside of your child’s tummy, This is where a two pronged approach is key. Both physical therapy and your doctor will get you on the right track. Your doctor will screen your child for that 5% of constipation cases that are caused by organic causes like Hirshprung’s disease, thyroid issues, and notably cow’s milk allergies and gluten intolerance/ celiac disease. It is important to be screened for these allergies and food intolerance as they represent a large portion of organic constipation cases. Once organic causes are ruled out, your doctor will start medication to help clean out the bowels. Miralax (Polyethylene glycol), is a mainstay of pediatric constipation treatment and is generally best tolerated. Miralax may be first given in large amounts to clean out the bowel, and then followed with smaller maintenance and then slowly tapered off as the rectum reduces from it’s stretched out size. It is important to remember that when starting miralax, especially at “clean out”, doses will likely increase episodes of incontinence at first, so prepare both yourself and your child. Make sure to consult your doctor before attempting any sort of clean out on your own.

Next up is physical therapy. Our main goal is to keep poo moving and avoid buildups so your child’s body can heal. We will teach you ways to massage the colon through the belly to keep poo exiting and to reduce back ups and the need for laxatives. We also work to teach your child to sit on the toilet in a way that will help the poo as easily and painlessly as possible. More often than not, kiddos with constipation have pretty weak cores that make defecating difficult. As pediatric physical therapists, I humbly assert that we are the masters at dreaming up fun ways to gain a little core strength in session and at home to help make bathroom trips easier.

What Beyond Basics does that is truly unique from non pelvic floor physical therapists, is we train the muscles of the pelvic floor (the muscles that control both the the anal and urethral opening to better open and close). Kiddos with chronic constipation tend to have pelvic floors that are tight and uncoordinated. Paradoxical contraction occurs when a child tries to open their anal canal, and they truly believe they are doing so, however they are I n fact clamping it shut. We can treat this problem at Beyond Basics.

If your child would benefit from physical therapy, or an evaluation, to make pooping a bit easier, give us a call. Stay tuned for our next blog, where we will go over some practical at home tips for improving both you and your child’s pooping situation!

 

Sources

Afzal N, Tighe M, Thomson M. Constipation in Children. Ital J Pediatr. 2011; 37

 

Poddar U. Approach to constipation in children. Indian Pediatri. 2016;53(4) 319-27

 

 

PH101 Potty Issues with Kiddos

PottyFiona 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 May 11th, 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: pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com

Spring Pelvic Health 101 is Coming

Fiona McMahon, DPT, PT

Pelvic Health 101 is back with some old favorites like, “Something’s wrong with my what?” and “Why is pooping so difficult?” We have also added a new course on pediatric pelvic floor issues.

If you have questions, we have answers. Join us for lectures and question and answer opportunities with expert pelvic health physical therapists, childbirth educators, and nutritionists. Please reserve your spot early at pelvichealth-101.eventbrite.com. Remember spots fill up quickly. As always, light refreshments will be served.

pelvic-health-101-spring-2017

Postcard From: Herman and Wallace, A Course in Pediatric Pelvic Floor, Boston

By Fiona McMahon, PT  DPT

This past Friday, I hopped on a double decker bus and made my way up to Boston (Norwood) for a continuing education in pediatric pelvic floor disorders. Physical therapists are required to accumulate a certain amount of course hours a year to maintain their license to practice, but more importantly to continue to grow as a clinician. Pediatric pelvic floor physical therapy, like adult pelvic floor physical therapy is complex and rapidly evolving. Although, I had been trained in pediatric pelvic floor PT at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, I knew I was in for a weekend of furthering my knowledge and expertise.

First of all, the ride up was beautiful. This time of year New England’s countryside is on fire with the red, yellows, and oranges of fall foliage. I spent until sundown looking out the window to soak up the scenery.

The course itself was fabulous. I think the most powerful part of the course was hearing specific children’s stories of their struggles with bedwetting, constipation, fecal soiling, and incomplete urination. Physical therapy changed their lives. I am not saying this lightly. By helping a child rid his or herself of these extremely embarrassing and isolating conditions, the child is able to return to the activities of play, learning, and adventure, that they were previously unable to experience secondary to embarrassment and fear of bullying.

It is just so important that there are clinicians out there who can treat these disorders and help kids return to their role as children. The need is there. If you are a pediatric healthcare provider and are not sure how to help these kids with bladder and bowel disorders, I implore you to refer to a pediatric pelvic floor physical therapist for an evaluation to see how they can help. You will be directly improving the lives of children. If you are a parent, I urge you to seek out help for you child’s bowel and bladder issues. There really is so much to be done to improve your child’s well-being from a medical and physical therapy aspect. We at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy treat a range of pediatric disorders. Please consider us if your child is suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction.

Featured imagePhoto:  Right: Me (Fiona McMahon), and Left: Dawn Sandalcidi PT, RCMT, BCB-PMD instructor of Herman and Wallace: Pediatric Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pediatric Pelvic Floor Therapy

By Riva Preil

Great news! Pelvic floor physical therapy benefits adults and children alike…and research is proving it!  The European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine reports a recent study which supports pelvic floor physical therapy for children with dysfunctional voiding (DV).  DV is involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles and/or the external urethral sphincter during urination in children with intact neurological systems.  DV is strongly correlated with urinary incontinence both during the day and at night (called nocturnal enuresis), urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, difficulties with urination, pelvic holding patterns, and vesicoureteral reflux.

The aforementioned controlled study was performed in an outpatient clinical facility and it included forty three children aged 5-13 with DV.  Treatment consisted of education about proper fluid intake, toileting posture, timed voiding schedule, hygiene issues, and constipation reduction education.  In addition, children were educated on the proper performance of diaphragmatic breathing exercises (for abdominal muscle relaxation) and pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises (three second hold followed by thirty second release).  After one year of treatment, daytime urinary incontinence was cured in 83% of participants, nocturnal enuresis was cured in 63% of participants, and constipation was cured in 100% of participants.  In other words, PELVIC FLOOR PHYSICAL THERAPY IS APPROPRIATE AND INDICATED FOR CHILDREN in certain instances.  If your child or someone that you know may benefit from these services, Beyond Basics Physical Therapy has a wonderful pediatric program.  Please ask your child’s pediatrician for a prescription for pelvic floor physical therapy, and we look forward to helping!