If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection you know what a pain they can be - literally! You’re probably familiar with the symptoms of frequent bathroom trips and burning with urination. The first thing you might do is call your doctor, take cranberry pills, AZO or drink a gallon of water. But then you get the urine culture back and the test was negative. How can it be that you don’t have an infection?
Pelvic floor overactivity can mimic all of these symptoms. The pelvic floor wraps around the urethra, where urine flows from the bladder out of the body. Tension in the sphincter urethrae muscle (part of the pelvic floor) can pinch the urethra, narrowing the path for urine. This results in the bladder forcing urine through a tiny hole which becomes painful.
Now that your bladder is having a harder time forcing urine out of the urethra it may not empty as well which means you retain urine. The bladder will stay partially full, perpetually sending your brain the signal that it’s full and you need to urinate again.
Retaining urine can also lead to UTI. It is important to have your urine tested because your symptoms may very well be due to a UTI, but if the test is negative, your pelvic floor is the likely culprit!
Decreasing tension in the pelvic floor can be accomplished with these exercises:
Diaphragmatic Breathing - Deep breathing that utilizes the diaphragm encourages pelvic floor mobility, lengthening and relaxation. Begin by lying on your back with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, above your belly button. As you breathe in, feel which hand moves more. You want most of the movement happening under the hand on your belly with minimal movement in the hand on your chest. This should still be a relaxed breath without forcing the belly to rise. While doing this, relax. Lay in a comfortable position and take 5-10 minutes to let your breathing become comfortable.
Scanning for Tension - Check in with your body throughout the day. Are you clenching your teeth or buttocks? Are your shoulders cinched up to your ears? Do you constantly hold in your stomach? Recognizing the tension in these places and letting it go will also help the pelvic floor relax. Scan for tension multiple times per day in various positions or anytime you feel your stress level rise.
Stress Management - Finding a healthy way to reduce stress will help your body and nervous system and, as a result, the pelvic floor to relax. You may choose to meditate, practice yoga, pray, or read. But it should be relaxing for the mind and body.
These are the fundamentals to embarking on your pelvic floor relaxation journey and resolving your frequent bathroom trips and pain with urination. The power is in your hands, but if you could use another helping hand, a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist can give you the support and guidance to achieve your goals.