With the flu and cold season upon us, it’s smart to focus on your immune health and pelvic health. We often hear from women that they typically don't have urinary incontinence, but when they get sick and are coughing forcefully or coughing over and over again, they often have urinary incontinence. This is called stress incontinence.
What is Stress incontinence?
Stress incontinence is a common type of urinary incontinence that involves the involuntary leakage of urine during activities that put pressure or stress on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. These activities typically include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Exercise or physical exertion
- Sudden movements
Stress incontinence happens when the core: the transverse abdominis, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles aren’t functioning optimally to properly manage the stress placed on them. We call this poor pressure system management.
Poor pressure system management can occur for a variety of reasons. We recommend an evaluation with one of our Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists to get to the root cause of why this is happening for you. (Hint- it’s not all about just kegels or kegel exercises and strengthening the pelvic floor.)
Common causes of poor pressure system management and stress incontinence:
Overworking abdominal muscles cause stress incontinence
tress incontinence is common in female athletes and active women. Most exercise classes focus on strengthening the abdominal muscles and tell participants to “pull your belly button toward your spine”. In most people this activates the rectus abdominis (six pack muscle). If the pelvic floor is not strengthened and coordinated with the abdominals, it puts excess pressure on the pelvic floor.This can cause stress incontinence over time.
Poor body image can cause stress incontinence
Many women with poor body image suck their stomachs to appear thinner. (We can blame society for this one!) In most people this activates the rectus abdominis (six pack muscle). If the pelvic floor is not strengthened and coordinated with the abdominals, it puts excess pressure on the pelvic floor.This can cause stress incontinence over time.
Women with poor body image may hunch over to appear shorter, or smaller, or make breasts look smaller. If you have poor body image, you also may have a lot of negative self talk, which can change posture. All of these postural changes do not allow the muscles in the shoulders or core work as well as they could. Over time, this can contribute to stress incontinence.
Poor gluteus medius and maximus strength and coordination can cause stress incontinence
The pelvic floor gets a bad rap, but it’s often the scapegoat. Often, we find that women with
stress incontinence have weak glute muscles and the pelvic floor is just compensating. Strengthening and coordination the glute muscles can be paramount to moving past stress incontinence.
Why you have stress incontinence when you’re sick?
Breathing pattern changes
When you’re sick and coughing or sneezing a lot, breathing patterns tend to change if the diaphragm isn’t functioning as well as it could. This can lead to urinary incontinence when sick.
Increased pressure on the pelvic floor and pressure system
Coughing and sneezing put more pressure on the pelvic floor and core pressure system than running! When you’re sick and are coughing and sneezing constantly, sometimes the pelvic floor just can’t keep up.
How to stop stress incontinence when you’re sick.
When you’re sick, it’s not the time to train your pelvic floor and pressure system. These hacks may help you stay dry in the short term, but make sure you take this sign from your body to heart. This stress incontinence is trying to tell you to go see a Pelvic PT!
When you’re sick and have stress incontinence try:
Breathing down into your ribs and belly for stress incontinence
If you can feel a cough or sneeze coming, try inhaling into your ribs and down into your belly. This will help the pelvic floor relax more so it can respond better to pressure changes.
The knack for stress incontinence
If you can feel a cough or sneeze coming, try tightening the pelvic floor or kegeling. For some people with stress incontinence when sick, this can help the pelvic floor prepare for the pressure change to stop stress incontinence. Don’t use this as a long term solution for stress incontinence! The pressure system needs to function properly for long term relief and prevention of problems like prolapse.
Crossing your legs for stress incontinence while sick
The adductors are the pelvic floor’s helpers, so sometimes the trick of crossing your legs when you sneeze can help in the short term. Don’t use this as a long term solution for stress incontinence either!
After you recover from being sick, book a free consultation with us in our Wexford, PA or Greensburg, PA clinics to get to the root cause of when you’re getting stress incontinence. Often, women with stress incontinence have issues such as frequent urination, urge incontinence, or urgency with urination and we can help those too!
We take an integrative approach that incorporates mental health challenges that get people results when no one else can. If you want expert guidance in moving past stress incontinence, urge incontinence, urinary frequency, or urinary urgency, book a free consult with us virtually, in Wexford, PA, or Greensburg, PA.