Bladder leakage during physical activity and exercise is common, with 30% of exercising women reporting this complaint.
Bladder leakage may be common, but it is never considered normal.
The bladder is designed to store and comfortably hold onto urine, and only when it is an appropriate time to do so (i.e. when seated on the toilet), does it contract to empty.
High impact activity (exercise or sports involving running, jumping, sudden starting or stopping) cause sudden increases in pressure within the abdomen, which can cause bladder leakage if the pelvic floor and/or muscles surrounding the urethra are weak or not functioning correctly, this is known as “stress urinary incontinence”.
Top female athletes report a high prevalence of bladder leakage, especially during sport but also during daily activities. This ranges from 28% to 80%, with the highest rate occurring in high-impact sportswomen such as trampolinists (80%), gymnasts (56%), ballet dancers (43%), hockey players and track athletes (30%).
The most common activity causing stress urinary incontinence is jumping, but bladder leakage caused by urgency was also common across sports in up to 40% of athletes.
Urge Urinary Incontinence is bladder leakage that occurs with an urgent desire to empty the bladder, this type of incontinence is not related so much to the strength and support of the bladder, but the bladder muscle itself contracting and trying to empty at the wrong time.
Leaking with sport and exercise can be discouraging and many women find it difficult to continue exercising or training at the level they want to achieve.
Around 60% of women use pads to manage bladder leakage, which means they can keep training but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Some women stop exercising and training altogether to avoid dealing with their urinary incontinence, this causes an increased risk at all ages for cardiovascular problems, hypertensive disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and osteoporosis.
Low activity levels also result in weakness through your whole body, which actually increases the chances of having bladder leakage!
There are many ways to help improve bladder control:
– the most important is a thorough assessment from a Health Professional trained in this area.
There are many aspects to be considered when treating urinary incontinence, including the need to address a number of potential contributing factors that you may not be aware of such as:
3 Reduction of caffeine and alcohol consumption
Pelvic floor muscle training taught by a Women’s Health Physiotherapist is important for both prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence.
This should be the first line of treatment for women with stress urinary incontinence.
If urgency and/or urge incontinence is your main problem, other treatment strategies such as bladder training may be used to increase your control over the bladder and help develop normal bladder function.
So, remember this!
• Bladder leaking is common, but not normal.
• The health benefits of exercising (no matter what level, from weekend warrior to elite athlete) are huge for your current and long term health- don’t let bladder leakage stop you exercising but treat the cause so you can exercise with confidence.
• Get an assessment from a trained professional, like the Women’s Health Physio’s at myPhysioSA for her to get a tailored program for your bladder issue.
•Talk about it – one of the biggest issues is women of all ages accepting that bladder leakage is just a part of life (“isn’t that just what happens when you get older?”, “but I have had a couple kids, isn’t it normal to leak?”). Urinary incontinence can happen at any age and can really knock your confidence or willingness to try new things, whether that be exercise or other activities.
Don’t let your bladder be the boss of you, learn how to take control now and then tell everyone else about it! You might be surprised how many of your friends and family have been fighting the same silent battle.
Book an appointment with one of our Women’s Health Physio’s today!
Written by Jane Rothe, myPhysioSA Senior Womens Health Physiotherapist