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Causes of urinary incontinence and why it occurs in healthy people

Before leaving the house or going on a road trip, my parents would always tell me to go the bathroom before we left. Although this does cut down on inconvenient stops along the way, something critical in our traffic-heavy roadways around Washington, DC, it does not promote good bladder health!

The bladder is an organ made up of three layers of muscle, and it is one of the most trainable organs in the body. This means that the bladder picks up on patterns or habits very easily, so if you go to the bathroom every time before you leave the house, your bladder will be begin to expect this and send an urge to urinate signal to your brain.

The downward spiral to urinary incontinence begins when you do not have a full bladder and force yourself to go anyway. The bladder muscles learn this pattern and signal a feeling to urinate more frequent than you would like.

It is normal to urinate about 5-7 times during the day. If urinating more than this, and it negatively impacts your quality of life, it may be time to seek help from a pelvic floor physical therapy specialist.

Tips that I like to give people for maintaining good bladder health include:

  1. Drink plenty of water.
  2. Avoid bladder irritants or reduce intake of them. Bladder irritants include, but are not limited to, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonation.
  3. Avoid going to the bathroom unless you feel the urge to go, rather than out of convenience. If you go to the bathroom when you don’t have the urge to go, you are actually worsening bladder health and starting the downward spiral to urinary incontinence.

In many instances, an MD urologist might diagnose or observe urine retention. So how do you know if you should see a physical therapist or a urologist? The urologist prescribes drugs and might look for infections or other causes of acute bladder dysfunction.

A physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health might also identify and diagnose bladder dysfunction. And it is the physical therapist who can help you train good bladder habits and rehabilitate your bladder muscles.

If you struggle with urinary incontinence, urinary retention, or urinary frequency, you could benefit from a pelvic health evaluation at Rose Physical Therapy. Rose has physical therapists