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Why Do I Pee When I Jump? The Kegal Solution
Posted on 05/26/2011 at 02:12 AM to Hot Health Topics
Fit Fem’rs!! How are we today? So I’ve got some super exciting news for thefitfem.com. I have added a guest blogger to my Fit Fem panel of experts. Dr. L is one of my best friends in the entire world, but that’s not the reason why she’s writing for your chicks today and in the future. She will be sharing a lot of really cool, very enlightening and useful information on hot topics regarding women’s health and fitness that A) you are too afraid to ask and have always wanted to know the answers and B) I personally have no expertise on. How unfair would it be if I wrote about issues I really know nothing about? So I figured let’s allow one of the best to discuss these issues. You deserve to read quality and trusted information.
Like I said, Dr. L is one of my BESTEST friends in the entire world; we both went to the same college and have remained the closest of friends. But that’s not the reason why we agreed for her to write for the Fit Fem. This Fit Fem’r is the total package…she’s gorgeous, is in total Fit Fem shape, is funny as sh*** , and is a total nerd in the most awesome way. Dr. L graduated from Stony Brook University and has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. She works for one of the top ranked hospitals in NYC. Duhhh, why wouldn’t I have her as a panel expert? Dr. L will be writing for the Fit Fem on a series we will call: Dr. L’s Hot Health Topics. I am really very excited about this - show her some love Fit Femr’s!
Without further a due, here’s Dr. L! Whoop Whoop!!
I dedicate this first post to all you women out there who plan on getting pregnant, are already pregnant, or have given birth (congrats!). Or if you know someone who fits into these categories, pass this information along. As you might already know, pregnancy causes many changes in our bodies. One change is the dreaded weight gain and it is no coincidence that you have stumbled upon The Fit Fem to shed the baby weight or stay in shape during your pregnancy. While I applaud your motivation and determination, I want to discuss a taboo issue that many women experience towards the end of pregnancy and after giving birth, an issue called “stress incontinence.” Stress incontinence effects approximately 40% of all women and is defined as a mild to moderate leakage of urine during activities that in normal circumstances would never cause a problem. These normal activities could be as simple as coughing, sneezing, or performing jumping jacks. Incontinence during these activities can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation that may hinder or stop your exercise routine all together. If you can relate to this situation, then believe me when I say that with the proper exercise and education you can go back to doing those 100 jumping jacks that the Fit Fem is so infamous for (ok maybe not the best news). Before we get to the exercise, let’s do a quick anatomy review and understand what is actually occurring.
Commonly referred to as the “levator ani” or “pelvic diaphragm complex,” your pelvic floor is a set of muscles that act like a hammock or sling running from the pubic bone to the tailbone. They assist with compressing the urethra and rectal openings for continence and support the pelvic structures, such as the bladder and uterus, against gravitational and intra-abdominal forces. When we have to urinate or defecate, these muscles contract and tighten to hold back the flow of urine until we reach a bathroom and then relax once we are situated over the toilet. When we become pregnant, they stretch to make room for that 7+lb baby that is growing inside of us and support him/her until we are ready to deliver (both vaginally and via C-section). After 9 long months and the trauma from delivery, these muscles become over-stretched and weak and have a difficult time returning to their pre-baby elasticity.
When we sneeze, cough, or even jump we increase our intra-abdominal pressure. Our intra-abdominal what? Think of our bodies like a closed soda can. There is a certain amount of pressure inside to keep the soda carbonated, or in our case, to keep our organs and spine supported and prevent them from collapsing in on each other. Shake a soda can and what happens? The pressure increases (and we all know this because if we open the can, it will explode). The same thing applies to us - when we perform quick high impact activities that cause us to bear down, hold our breath, or stiffen our bodies, we are “shaking the can” and increasing the pressure on the contents of our abdomen. In the case of incontinence, the bladder is one organ that is susceptible to this increase in pressure. Your bladder is like a water balloon and the knot is your pelvic floor muscles. Typically, when the increase in pressure pushes on our bladder or “squeezes the water balloon” the knot at the opening prevents the water from leaking out until we open it. If that knot is weak and we squeeze the balloon, what will happen? The water will leak out without our permission, and thus we have incontinence.
Now that you understand that stress incontinence is a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles, you already know how to solve the problem…work out those muscles!! It is important to know that every woman is different and may not experience incontinence during or after pregnancy. However, to maintain the integrity of your muscles, you can still perform these exercises to prevent further complications down the road. The exercise of choice is the kegel:
- Start by lying down on your back with your knees bent (make sure your bladder is empty to avoid leakage of urine or irritating the bladder).
- Now imagine as if you were stopping the flow of urine. You should feel your pelvic floor pull up and in. This is the kegel.
- Now imagine you are having a bowel movement and gently bear down. This movement should feel different then the first and this is NOT what we want. This will be your reference point of what NOT to do.
- Now rest your hands gently on your inner thighs and perform the kegel again. Did you inner thighs contract or did you butt tighten? If so, then you are compensating and not isolating your pelvic floor muscles.
- Spend some time performing the kegel focusing on relaxing all other muscles in your body. This may be harder than expected and may feel as if you are barely doing anything. However, you are and it will only get easier.
- Once you are able to isolate your pelvic floor, progress to holding this contraction for 3 seconds, then relaxing for 3 seconds. DO NOT hold your breath!
- Perform a set of 10 3 second hold/relax, 3 times a day.
- Once you mastered performing the kegel on your back, you can progress to performing while sitting or standing to challenge your muscles in a more functional position.
If done correctly and everyday, you should experience an improvement in symptoms. If you have any other questions or concerns, you should contact your doctor for more information or find a physical therapist trained to treat this specific condition. Remember, I am focusing on muscles and exercise in my posts but there could be many other factors that could cause incontinence, and I will not discuss them here.
I hope this information was useful and keep on the look out for future posts related to exercise from a physical therapy perspective.
*Disclaimer: please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program during or immediately after pregnancy.*
Thanks Dr. L for this fantastic post. It’s no wonder why I get a lot of women running to the bathroom after we do the crazy jumping jacks in my fitness classes?? Sorry ladies, this is not a free pass to no more jumping jacks! You have the info, now use it before your next workout! Say NO to pee-pee leakage!
Fit Fem’rs, stay tuned for more Dr. L’s Hot Health Topics in the future. If you have any suggestions for topic ideas, you know what to do. Email me or write a comment in the box below. But in the meantime, are you doing your kegals?
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