InCONTINEN(T)ce: Putting the urge to pee back on the map

Okay so I had said this blog was rated G…It is. But an urgent need has arisen. Don’t let your under 18’s read this. Sorry kidlets! In fact, this is for over 40’s! On a recent car drive one sunny afternoon, along a winding scenic mountainside road (You know, the kind where you see water glistening on the rock), a plaintive voice in the car broke through the lull in conversation: “Stop. I have to pee!” Uh oh! But it wasn’t coming from the back seat. It was from the front seat of a fully-loaded passenger vehicle. And it was Mom!…Mom? “Are we even close to a bathroom yet?” (Are we there yet?) No. Better pull over. Mom has to pee. Normally we do this unquestioningly when one of the little voices sounds out the pee alarm. But Mom? Can’t she just hold IT? No. Somewhere amidst all the singing and laughing and bad joke retelling, Mom decided she could no longer hold it in--her pee. And it’s not funny…er…don’t laugh or even get Mom laughing. In fact, this is no laughing matter! It’s called incontinence and now we’re going to put it back on the map!

My colleague, Myra Siminovitch, Physiotherapist, treats conditions such as osteoporosis and incontinence. She tells us that many adult women and men suffer from incontinence. No, this is not some kind of geographical displacement, although it certainly feels like it when you can’t find a bathroom! Rather, it is the involuntary loss of urine (pee). This can happen when we cough, sneeze, laugh, jump, run, laugh (Did I already say laugh?) and it often catches us off guard. We suddenly feel this warm leaky sensation that is not a heated car seat (By the way, have you ever second-guessed yourself when the driver has quietly activated the electric leather seat warmers in her new Volvo?).

It’s just awful really…in our 40’s we are done with diaper changes! So what is this all about, this sneak attack of the bladder, reminding us of its presence in an oh-so-inconvenient way? I mean, what karmic burden is this about? I wonder as I think back to any lag in response times changing my son’s diaper so many years ago. But I digress…Never mind, I might as well just wait for some information leak to find that answer! Oh and it is important to note that men suffer from incontinence too! Prostate surgery can lead to incontinence in men. The whole mess is just that: messy…and distressing, and embarrassing, not to mention putting a damper on your quality of life!

There is good news, a silver lining in that rain cloud if you will. You can do something about incontinence. First of all, Myra says void completely when you pee (Funny thing is I do that when I laugh!). Didn’t we tell our kids that way back? Okay, check! We can wear discrete pads. Myra recommends TENA pads for their specialized absorbency and minimal environmental footprint. Check! Although Myra says that pads should not be our first line of defense. And finally, remember those Kegel exercises your Gyne prescribed after childbirth, the ones we said “Yeah. Yeah.” to as we shyly took the explanatory paper with no intention of ever doing those things (What are they anyway?) and never did them, or felt the need to do them. And anyway, how many men get sent home after childbirth with that directive?

But now we’re in a different territory, on a different continent called Incontinence. So we scrabble around in our boxes of baby memorabilia to find that magic formula…or we just hit Google and type “Kegels.” But wait! This is an exercise that you can do very discretely while waiting in line at the bank, or at the grocery checkout or in your doctor’s office (See my first post called Wait Mode—you get the picture!). Kegel exercises involve the deliberate tightening--now cover your eyes, all you minors!—of the sphincter muscle of the anus while standing. They help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, and lo and beHOLD, stop the involuntary release of pee!

First we have to locate the place of these pelvic floor muscles. Myra suggests contracting your pelvic floor muscles as if you want to hold gas or as if you want to stop the urine flow. Now you try it! It’s easy…when you commit to doing them. And yes, you can do them sitting or lying down, but Kegels are most effective if you do them standing. The thing is you have to do reps with these! Yes reps! No, you need not run out and renew your lapsed gym membership! Hold for 5 seconds; relax for 10, repeating 10 times in a row. Do your Kegels 6-7 times a day.

As previously mentioned, you can do Kegel exercises anytime and anywhere. Remind yourself to do your Kegels during television commercials or at red lights or even while walking Rover, who ironically stops to pee on just about every tree you pass! Do not do them while peeing! You don’t want to stop that stream; it's not good training for those muscles. You should begin to notice a difference after a week or so. BUT, you can never stop. It’s like taking your calcium or brushing your teeth (Myra suggests doing Kegels while brushing your teeth!). You just have to do them because as we get older our pelvic floor muscles weaken. So now you know how important Kegel exercises are…especially if you leaked while reading this!

Comments

  1. Kelly, this post is not only funny but informative as well. I didn't know about Kegel exercises. I'll tell my mom about it.
    Thanks for sharing this info!

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