Female Athlete Incontinence – Surprisingly Common!
Young, healthy and fit but you leak urine??? You’re not alone! Studies have found that nearly 1/3 of female athletes experience stress incontinence during training or sporting events. The numbers are even higher in teenage girls, especially if they play year round sports.
A common misconception is that all incontinence is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles and it’s usually a consequence of getting older or having babies. But, in the female athlete, the reverse is often true. Strength training can cause muscles to become tense and shortened. As a result, the PF muscles are not fully relaxing and coming together to close the external urethra sphincter. This allows urine to escape during exertion. In addition, most exercises focus on the large, outer muscle groups and the small, inner core muscles can subsequently become weak and ineffective.
Contrary to what you may have read or been told, Kegels are NOT the answer. Don’t get me wrong, Kegels are important, but exercising overly taut muscles will just cause further shortening and tension. In the case of the female athlete, this is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
Fear not! This is a reversible condition and it’s important you take action sooner rather than later! Women who have PF issues before having babies are more likely to experience worsening of symptoms after pregnancy and childbirth.
Although the process of storing urine and voiding is mostly automatic and happens without thinking about it, emptying our bladders is a voluntary process. Most people are not aware that the pelvic floor muscles are skeletal muscles, just like our biceps and quadriceps. Subsequently, these muscles are subject to the same type of problems we have in other muscle groups – tension, spasms and trigger points. To ensure optimal function, tension needs to be released and muscle fibers need to be elongated.
Female Athlete Incontinence – Home Tip #1 VIDEO of Glute Release
In this short video, we show you a self-myofascial release technique to release the superficial muscles of the pelvic floor. This will allow the muscles to relax. Do these releases at least 2x a week – just know that you can get some soreness following – just like you might feel after a deep tissue massage session. Use ice and drink plenty of water after!
Female Athlete Incontinence – Home Tip #2 VIDEO of Goddess Pose & Legs up the wall straight and angle bound
To fully lengthen taught muscles, you should also perform gentle, sustained stretches. Do these yoga poses daily to help with elongating and releasing tight pelvic floor muscles.
Female Athlete Incontinence – Home Tip #3 VIDEO of small core muscle exercises
It’s also important to strengthen the small core muscles that stabilize the pelvis and abdominal region. If these are weak, the larger muscles will become overactive to compensate. Do these exercises at least 3x a week to get results. These may seem rather simple and benign, especially to women who train fast and hard. But the goal is to activate and tone not to bulk up.
Female Athlete Incontinence – Tip #4 BIOFEEDBACK
Another helpful tool is pelvic floor biofeedback – a form of electromyography. Special sensors detect pelvic floor muscle activity and create a visual display on a computer monitor so you can see exactly how your pelvic floor muscles are performing. This tool can help people learn how to perform Kegels correctly and also how to fully release or relax the muscle.
Most importantly we want you to know you are not alone. This is a common experience but it’s NOT normal and you don’t have to live with it. With proper guidance, this problem can be reversed without medication or surgery AND you don’t have to stop doing the activities you LOVE! You have options and taking action now will keep you strong and healthy now and in the future!
Disclaimer: If you are not seeing results within 4-6 weeks, please make an appointment with a specialist who has training and certification specific to pelvic floor therapy. You may require more advanced, hands-on interventions that only a licensed therapist can provide. For your convenience, OptimaLiving Therapy and Pelvic Health Center is accepting new patients. We can be reached at 623-777-3113 (text or phone) or by email at email@example.com if you would like to make an appointment to speak with one of our expert therapists. Or – request a Free in-person Consultation