The Pelvic Floor Workout: Exercises to Help with Leaks

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Exercising helps offset the effects of arthritis, depression, excess weight, and even bladder leakage.

In fact, up to 35 percent of women are troubled by stress-induced incontinence. That’s why, just like the muscles in our arms and legs, pelvic floor muscles need toning, too.

Bladder leakage or urinary stress incontinence occurs when an activity, such as laughing, coughing or sneezing causes a small amount of urine to leak. Stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence suffered by women, especially older women. Women who have given birth, athletes, and those with anatomical issues are also more likely to have leakage

Even if you don’t have occasional leakage due to aging, genetics or childbirth, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through exercise reduces your chances of experiencing it in the future.  If you already have bladder leakage, before you turn to surgery, practicing pelvic floor exercises daily for a month should bring some relief.

If it doesn’t, speak to a gynecologist, urologist or urogynecologist and ask if pelvic floor therapy could help your specific problem. If so, request a referral to a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor therapy. To ensure patient privacy, a female therapist works one-on-one with each patient in a room separate from the main therapy room.

Jessica Azzinaro, DPT, a pelvic floor physical therapist with the University of Miami Health System says, “A pelvic floor physical therapist is trained to help the patient identify and isolate the muscles that need strengthening. It’s important that women do the exercises correctly and consistently. If done incorrectly, the exercises could make the problem worse.”

Within two or three months of therapy, many of Dr. Azzinaro’s patients gain control of their bladder and their life. “Therapy can reduce or eliminate the need for medication and in some cases, help patients avoid surgery,” she says.

Kegels

Kegel exercises are very effective if done correctly. Here’s how: clench the pelvic floor muscles like you're stopping the stream of urine. While you’re at it, contract your anus, as if you’re trying to keep from passing gas. That is the most effective Kegel. Practice your Kegels throughout the day, holding for five seconds each time. Repeat 10 times. Warning: don’t get in the habit of stopping your stream of urine while urinating. That can cause other problems.

Pelvic Floor Ball Squeeze

Sit up straight in a sturdy chair and place an exercise ball between your thighs. Squeeze the ball and pelvic floor muscles and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Pelvic Floor Resistance Band

Sitting on a sturdy chair, place a resistance band around your thighs with your feet together. Press your knees apart and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, hold for 10 seconds, then bring them back together. Repeat 10 times.