Controlling Urinary Urge
By Teri Elliott-Burke, PT, MHS, BCB-PMD
Do you urinate frequently? “Normal” is 5 – 7 times per day and at the most one time at night. If you find yourself urinating more often, losing sleep, knowing where every bathroom is or locating a bathroom everywhere you go; urinary frequency may be an issue for you.
The first way to control urinary urgency is to assess your diet. Caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and citrus foods and drinks can be bladder irritants. Eliminating these substances from your diet will help decrease urinary urgency and frequency. Also, drinking 5-7 eight-ounce glasses of water per day helps keep the urine in the bladder from becoming too concentrated. The more concentrated your urine is, the more acidic it is, the more acidic it is, the more irritated the bladder becomes. Many people decrease their water intake when they have urinary urgency and frequency, but this is actually the opposite of what you should do. A good rule of thumb is that your urine should be a very pale, clear yellow. Note: vitamins and some medications can discolor your urine.
Another thing to realize is that going to the bathroom frequently is often a habit. The bladder can become like a spoiled child that runs your life. To regain control of your bladder you need to do several things:
- First, ask yourself if you really need to go. If you just went 15 minutes ago you probably don’t have enough urine in your bladder to really have to urinate. When you urinate you should have a strong urine stream for a minimum of 8 seconds; if less it is an indication that you really did not have to empty.
- Second, respond only to urinary urges. Don’t go to the bathroom “just in case”. By forcing your bladder to empty when you don’t really have to you are confusing your bladder and brain signals.
- Third, relax. When you get a strong urge, stop or stand still. Take a couple of deep breaths. Try to distract yourself by thinking of something else. Often times this technique causes the urge to pass.
If urinary urgency is a problem and your bladder is running your life, try the above suggestions. If you are not seeing positive results with these changes, see your family physician, urologist or urogynecologist. Your physician may refer you to see a specialty trained pelvic physical therapist for a drug-free, surgery-free solution.
Why is a physical therapist talking about bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction?
The muscles in your pelvis are responsible for support, control of bowel and bladder functions, and sexual appreciation. While a physician evaluates the pelvic organs for problems (i.e. bladder, bowel, uterus, prostate), specialty trained physical therapists evaluate the pelvic musculature for dysfunction. These muscles, like all muscles, can be tight, weak, or have tenderness. These problems affect bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunctions. Physical therapists with this specialty training can be found at WoMen’s Physical Therapy Institute in Lake Zurich and Crystal Lake, IL. If you are not in Illinois, you can also visit these websites to search for a therapist in your area:
Teri Elliott-Burke, PT, MHS, BCB-PMD is a physical therapist with more than 30 years of experience. She is the co-owner and one of the treating therapists at WoMen’s Physical Therapy Institute, www.womensphysicaltherapyinstitute.com, which specializes in treating men, women, and children with orthopedic and pelvic dysfunction. Teri is a faculty member of the Herman and Wallace Institute and an adjunct faculty member of Midwestern University. She is also certified in biofeedback for pelvic floor muscle disorders.