Hi again! I’m Aliya, a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist and I’m back to teach you all the things you need to know about your pelvic floor. In my last post, I shared 5 tips for a happy + healthy pelvic floor – if you haven’t read that one yet, it’s definitely worth 3 minutes of your time! Today, I want to chat about the most common issue I hear as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist – leaks.
What are leaks?
Leaks, or urinary incontinence, affect up to 50% of women1. Urinary incontinence describes any situation where any amount of urine leaks. A healthy + happy pelvic floor is one that doesn’t leak, no matter the situation + no matter the quantity.
Why do leaks happen?
When we leak with activities like sneezing, skipping, or jumping, it’s called stress urinary incontinence. This happens when there is an increase in pressure in our bodies. Increases in intra-abdominal pressure happen throughout our day as we do things like stand up from a chair or talk; most of the time, our pelvic floor can manage the pressure while keeping us dry…but sometimes, the increase in pressure with a sneeze or jump is too large and our pelvic floor can’t match it – so we leak.
When we leak because we just can’t hold it anymore, it’s called urge urinary incontinence. This is often paired with strong + frequent urges to empty our bladder. Many of us think that if we leak, we must have pelvic floor muscles that are not strong enough – because if they were strong enough, they would do their job well and keep us dry, right?? Well, I’m here to tell you a secret: leaks can be caused by pelvic floor muscles that are weak OR by pelvic floor muscles that are tight. Sometimes the muscles are not strong enough to do their job well; other times, they are so tight that they can’t tighten any further. To complicate things even more, what we eat or drink, what stage we are at in life (pregnancy, postpartum, menopause), our posture, breathing, and coordination all have a role to play in incontinence. It is important to take a look at the big picture before we start doing kegels to stop leaking.
How to stop leaking
If you’ve found yourself nodding your head while reading this, please know that there is a way to live a leak-free life. You may have heard or even believe that leaks are something that happens to women when they sneeze after they’ve had babies, or as they get older…I’m afraid that this is simply not true. Finding the root cause of your leaks and treating that can help reduce or eliminate leaks in most people – but simply doing 100’s of kegels every day won’t cut it. You see, the reason why you leak is different from why your mom leaks and different from why your neighbour leaks. Perhaps one of you needs to focus on strengthening, the other on stretching, and another on a combination of things.
A good place to start is to try to understand your own body:
- What situations cause you to leak?
- Do you find that your pelvic floor muscles have a hard time relaxing?
- Do you feel that you’re rushing to the bathroom more often than others?
- If you leak when you’re jumping, skipping or running, do you find that you’re holding your breath?
- Can you do a pelvic floor muscle contraction (or a kegel)?
The next step would be to chat with a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist – we are trained to figure out why you’re leaking and have the knowledge to create a plan to get you to live a leak-free life.
I hope you learned something today – and I hope you can share this with a friend who might leak. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll be busting some common pelvic floor myths! Until then, come say hi on Instagram @boxwellnessco. That’s where I spend most of my time – talking all about wellness in + out of your box.