Have you ever asked yourself why does your bladder matter so much? It really does! Bladders are such a key part of our overall health and well-being, especially for women, yet bladder health doesn’t get the attention it should. When something goes wrong with our bladders, whether it’s a UTI, becomes over-active or even prolapsed, it wreaks havoc on our lives dealing with the pain, frequency and even worse. To put it simply – when our bladders are not happy, we’re not happy.
Fact is, more than half of all women will experience some form of bladder problem over the course of their lifetime, and for many, these problems can be life altering. Just speak to someone with interstitial cystitis or recurrent UTIs or urinary incontinence and hear how it negatively impacts her life. When bladders don’t function properly, everyday things like commuting to work, going out with friends -- even intimacy – can become seriously problematic.
As the manufacturer of Cystex urinary health products, we know how important a healthy bladder is and our goal with the Your Bladder Matters initiative is to bring attention to the subject of urinary health and how we can take an active role in making our bladders better. Kegel exercises are one easy way all women can get started, as is understanding what common things can go wrong with our bladders, such as UTIs.
Get Your Kegel On
Many bladder health specialists will tell you that the key to better bladder health lies with having strong pelvic floor muscles. (The muscles of the pelvic floor are internal muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.) One way to accomplish this, that nearly all women can do on their own, is the Kegel exercise. Essentially, Kegel exercises consist of repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that surround the urethra and bladder base to strengthen them. Strengthening these pelvic floor muscles can help reduce the risk of certain bladder issues. Since these muscles are completely internal, you can exercise and contract them discreetly while you’re doing almost anything -- walking, driving, standing in line at the post office, watching your child’s soccer game – you get the drift. Not only is doing Kegel exercises very discreet, they are actually quite simple to do (see below for exercise instructions). It’s easy to locate the muscles and it only takes a few minutes a day during your normal routine. (Watch Cystex’s “I’m Kegeling. Are You?” video to see how easy it is.)
Kegel Exercise Instructions [downloadable PDF]
- Find the muscles: To find the muscles you need for Kegel exercises, try to stop the flow of urine during urination – not an easy thing to do, but it will help you identify the muscles you want to target. For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
- Contract the muscles: Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, try squeezing the muscles "up" and "in" (contracting), hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- Repeat: Do 10 contractions at a time. Over time the muscles will begin to tighten noticeably. (Don't make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can actually weaken the muscles.) A good goal is to do 10 repetitions three times a day.
Kegel exercises are most effective when done regularly and frequently, so be patient! It can take a while – even months – to see any noticeable progress with your pelvic floor muscles. But the rewards of stronger pelvic floor muscles are better bladder health – so kegel away!
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC)
- National Association for Continence
- The Simon Foundation for Continence
- The Interstitial Cystitis Association
- Society of Women in Urology
(Find a female urologist)