to pride yourself on having a champion bladder. Now not so much.
you go, you have to scan the place for a bathroom because that burning,
pressure and ache in the pit of your belly just won’t go away until you relieve
yourself. Phew! Until the next wave hits anyway.
me like your bladder is running the show.
urgency and frequency is a complaint that often co-occurs with pelvic pain. Not
always, but commonly enough to inspire me to write about it.
you know about how your body works, the better grip you’ll have on what’s
happening. So, let’s start with a little anatomy lesson.
The bladder is a stretchy balloon that sits right behind your pubic bone. Its neighbors are the rectum, prostate, pelvic floor muscles, penis, intestines… In fact, pretty much everything in the surrounding area can influence the urinary subdivision.
say one of your neighbors’ alarms goes off in the middle of the night and keeps
blaring until it wakes you up. Most likely, you’d flip on the lights and go see
what the heck is going on next door, right?
goes for the communication between the pelvic floor and bladder. Neighbors can
be nosey, so when one house on the block is acting weird, the others get
said that there are over 45 miles of nerves in our body, communicating with our
internal and external world. Whenever there is distress, you better believe
these nerves are going to perk up and listen.
pain is distressing and this causes the alarm bells to keep going off, which
can make neighboring structures curious indeed, sometimes even joining in the
and frequency (and pain) that isn’t attributable to infection is most likely
due to an overly sensitive nervous system [ref]. Even in the cases of
diagnoses like interstitial cystitis (IC) or bladder pain syndrome (BPS), we’re
discovering that the neuroimmune system plays an integral role. Many of the
same symptoms overlap with those we see in pelvic pain, which is why diagnosis
isn’t so easy and misdiagnosis common.
Pelvic pain symptoms overlapping with IC/BPS:
- Pressure or discomfort in the lower belly
- Urinary urgency and frequency
- Painful urination
- Peeing making it feel better
- Bladder spasms
- Bladder pain
umbrella symptoms that can fall under many categories and shouldn’t be treated
with a “find it, fix it” approach. Like pelvic pain, urinary symptoms are
multimodal and often co-occur with pelvic pain.
It’s important to note that diagnoses like IC or BPS are still poorly understood and the initial course of action should be the more conservative, less invasive treatments.
So, What Can You Do to Ease Your Plumbing Woes?
- Log your diet: You might find certain foods or drinks trigger or worsen your symptoms. If that’s the case, moderate these items or get rid of them entirely until things calm down. Once the alarm-bell volume is turned down, start to reintroduce these foods into your life slowly and in moderation giving your body enough time to adapt.
We still don’t know the exact mechanisms in play where diet impacts bladder and pelvic floor symptoms. Unique as a thumbprint, there’s a lot of variability around sensitivity based on the individual.
- Changes in the bladder tissue itself altering the sensitivity
response of substances/chemicals filtering through the bladder.
- Organ ‘cross-talk’ where stimuli and messages from one organ can
lead to changes in another organ via the nervous and immune systems. These
changes can occur at the tissue, spinal cord and brain levels. Often times,
it’s a combination of all three.
- Nervous system up-regulation or sensitivity, which can happen in
the brain, spinal cord or ‘danger’ sensors located in the tissues. This is also
influenced by your immune system and can keep things ramped up or dampened
People with bladder issues will tend to limit their fluid intake
thinking that it will make the urge and frequency of peeing go away. This is a
myth, sorry guys.
Hydration will actually nourish your bladder, muscles, nerves, joints, oh just about everything. Your bladder is a muscle and the only way it will get some exercise is if it can stretch, fill and squeeze to empty. Limiting fluid intake often makes the sensitivity issue worse.
- Let it go, let it flow: Breathe while you pee. I know it sounds simple, but when the tap isn’t flowing, it’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s wrong rather than what’s good.
Scientists have shown that what you think about your pain can change how you feel [ref] [ref]. Meaning your perspective on what’s happening in your body will influence your bodily functions. It can magnify or play down the sensitivity of your neuroimmune system.
- So the next time you’re peeing, close your eyes, breathe deeply and focus on your breath. Allow the muscles of your belly, back and pelvic floor to soften and relax. This will help train your bladder and pelvic floor muscles to work synergistically with each other, improving communication and function, while lessening urinary and pelvic discomfort.
consistent with your practice. It takes time to reorganize and re-train the
nervous system, so set yourself up for success by making the necessary
lifestyle changes needed for positive outcomes.
DIY approach feels like you’re throwing darts with the blindfold on, we’ve got
some work to do. Let’s chat to get you back on
Bladder image courtesy of Visible Body