Whether it’s the urge to go or not being able to hold it, people often accept that incontinence issues are something that happens when men and women get older. However, you don’t have to let it affect your daily activities.
Like with women, incontinence issues for men can come from a weak pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a sling in the lower pelvis. These layers of muscles hold your organs in place and help stabilize your pelvic bones. When these muscles are weak you can have urine leakage and increased frequency of urination, which can lead to getting up several times during the night. Men can have additional issue such as a weak or slow stream, difficulty initiating urination or pain. If you have any of these symptoms check with your doctor to rue out a urinary tract or bladder infection.
Surgery and injury weaken pelvic floor
If a man has an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, medical interventions are available. Surgery and additional treatments such as radiation can impact the pelvic muscles. The pelvic floor can lengthen from disuse or become tense, tight and painful. Your primary care provider or urology department can refer you to physical therapy to help train your muscles. The physical therapist will evaluate your symptoms, how they interfere with your daily life and set goals for your therapy.
“We can use EMG (electromyography) biofeedback machines to help diagnose and assess the pelvic muscle tone,” said Nicole Quarne, Marshfield Clinic Health System physical therapist. “The EMG shows us how well a person can contract and relax their pelvic floor muscle.” Quarne uses biofeedback throughout physical therapy to help her patients retrain their pelvic floor muscles. This biofeedback helps patients connect their mind with their muscles through visual and auditory feedback.
When you’ve increased control of your pelvic floor muscles, you’ll progress to practicing with functional activities.
You will practice pelvic floor control in lying and sitting and progress to standing. You are building your pelvic floor control in order to complete daily functional tasks without leaking, including lifting weight, transferring out of a chair, jumping, running and coughing or sneezing.
Learning to relax and breathe
Relaxing your muscles is just as important as muscle contraction. People often don’t relax their muscles for enough time. “When performing Kegels, people work hard squeezing, but neglect relaxation of the pelvic floor,” Quarne said. She encourages deep abdominal breathing from the diaphragm coordinated with Kegels. Muscle strength isn’t the only issue. You also need flexibility of the pelvic floor and shouldn’t hold your breath as you contract and relax.
“A lot of people say they have tried Kegels but they don’t solve the issue. So they think therapy won’t work,” Quarne said. “However, Kegels aren’t always done correctly. That’s where I come in.”
Bladder irritation also may contribute to the problem. Quarne recommends staying hydrated, limiting acidic foods and caffeine. Caffeine is an irritant and will make you dehydrated. “People think if they drink less they will leak less. This only makes your urine more concentrated and creates more irritation,” she said.
Talk with your doctor
Incontinence issues for men and women are more common than people realize. However, people tend to put off seeing a doctor because of embarrassment. “Treatment is very manageable and modest. A lot of people have the same issues and this is something you don’t have to live with.”
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