Dribbly women don’t dance – incontinence and exercise by Elaine Miller physiotherapist
If you are reading this you are not my audience. Sorry. The fact that you are reading something to do with incontinence suggests that you already have an understanding about the condition, are comfortable getting information about it, and are keen to learn more. So, you either are, or, will be, alright.
The people I fret about are the millions of women who are living with their leaking and not yet seeking help. They just put up with having poor bladder control, pad up, and feel a bit disappointed.
Well, I say “feel a bit disappointed”. In fact is that a third of them go on to develop clinical depression. Of course, exercise is commonly recommended for managing mood disorders – but, if you leak when you run, well, you’re not going to go for a run, are you?
And, therein lies the huge public health rub.
Diseases of inactivity, like coronary heart disease, kill women. One in eight UK women die from heart disease. Exercise isn’t just about being able to keep up with the kids, or beating the blue, it’ll keep us alive.
But, speaking as someone who peed herself during zumba…it is very difficult to be physically active and avoid impact on your pelvic floor.
When I rule the world, some pieces of gym equipment will carry “pelvic floor warning” signs. Rowing machines, reclining bikes, a loaded leg press – yep, wouldn’t want anyone with a prolapse on those things. Oh, or trampolines, those things can have a label on them. And, the plank, star jumps, tennis, lunges, I could go on.
In fact, I’d force incontinence pad manufacturers to print pelvic health advice on their packaging. And, while we’re at it, they can fix that awful glue which comes unstuck and allows the pad to attach itself to your labia instead of your gusset…ouch.
So, we’ve got a classic Catch 22. In order to reduce your risk of pelvic organ prolapse and your symptoms of stress incontinence you need to keep your weight under control. But, you wet yourself at zumba, so aren’t keen…
Pelvic floor friendly exercises have reduced impact forces – like swimming, cycling, pilates (when it’s well taught and you are absolutely sure your technique is good), speed/power/Nordic pole/hill walking, aqua-aerobics and low-intensity cross trainers.
However, runners? They wanna run, not walk, they want to run. That’s when internal support can be helpful, Sherrie Palm (she knows everything there is to know about pelvic floors) says that pessaries like incostress should be used when a woman is participating in acvities with impact.
Now, that does not mean that you can shove in a grade 4 prolapse with an incostress and get back to athletics training…but, it does mean that if you have a mild prolapse, or mild stress incontinence symptoms, and you are complying with a pelvic floor strengthening regime which your physiotherapist has given you, AND you use internal support – well, you just might manage to get back to zumba.
Ask me how I know.
Credited to Elaine Miller
Elaine Miller on of the UKs leading physiotherapists who has a post-grad in sports medicine. She focuses her energy on helping women overcome pelvic floor disorders and incontinence and breaks down the taboo through her humour and pelvic floor parties where she has a one hour solo show entitled ‘Gusset Grippers’. Look out for Gusset Grippers at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August. An amazing lady who fears no pelvic floor!
Find out more about Gusset Grippers on the Gusset Grippers website
Elaine’s blog and more information on where to see Elaine at the Edinburgh Festival