Heather Jeffcoat, DPT
5 Ways That Enduring the Pandemic and Bladder Health Are Related
It has taken a toll, but here are a few tips on what you can do about it
As pelvic health specialists, bladder health is one of our main areas of focus here at Femina PT and Fusion Wellness PT, and as this article at Well + Good states:
Our society has finally started to show some improvement in acknowledging the importance of having open, public conversations about bladder health—including the many ways that your urinary system impacts your lifestyle on a day-to-day basis—over the last several years."
The article touches on the root causes of bladder issues, how these causes were exacerbated by the fears that arose from the pandemic, and even disposable underwear for those dealing with urinary incontinence. It also asks the question "Has something changed for the worst in the broader scope of people's bladder health?" The answer to this is multi-faceted, and Hannah Schneider does a great job of analyzing each one of these facets.
1. There were significant delays in one's ability to access bladder health care
The general lack of access to routine (non-Covid related) medical care during the peak of the pandemic is no secret, and like many other so-called "minor" medical issues, bladder health was pushed to the back burner while the medical system dealt with Covid. This lack of access to care lead to worsening symptoms for many who were experiencing bladder problems. As the article states:
Not only did the pandemic slam the health care system for a long time, which made it significantly harder to get in to see a provider, but it also became a space for risk of exposure to COVID-19. This delay in care makes an already hard-to-navigate system even harder. People who experience a slight burning sensation may not want to go in to see a doctor if they are at risk of exposure to severe COVID-19 cases or if they live with a family member who has the virus.
Additionally, the financial impact on families and individuals throughout the pandemic has led to even more unstable care accessibility. Some folks simply can't afford to find a primary care physician to talk to about their urinary incontinence when they sneeze or wake up to pee too often. Lastly, it can be hard to come to a physician with more open-ended concerns like OAB or incontinence because it can take time, money, and vulnerability to investigate."
2. More focus was placed on acute bladder care needs and less on preventative care
When our medical system gets stressed to the limits as it did during the peak of the pandemic, there is bound to be a reduction of long term preventative care in favor of quick fixes to alleviate immediate symptoms. These stresses included a declining ratio of available staff vs. demand, making it that much harder to handle even routine visits and checkups:
Burnout in the healthcare field has also made it harder to get in to see specialists like urologists, and that has led to urgent care offices and emergency rooms to focus more on treating acute issues over preventative care—and same goes for patients."
The lesson learned? As with just about any other health issue, preventative care is king!
3. Less active lifestyles impact bladder capacity and kidney functioning
The article references a study that indicates a correlation between inactivity and bladder health. This should come as no surprise, since physical activity is a key driver of overall health, not just visible traits such as weight loss and muscle tone.
Related: Yoga Poses for Working at Home
And just what does inactivity lead to? Sitting, for one.
4. Sitting can weaken your pelvic floor and lead to urinary incontinence
Hannah points out how your posture also dictates stability and the strength of muscles, and it determines the level of strain that is placed on your pelvic floor.
As I mentioned to Hannah, when you sit hunched over or off to one side, this abnormal posture puts abnormal stress on your pelvic area, which isn’t ideal for your pelvic floor muscles — or your bladder. When the urge hits, if your pelvic floor muscles are under strain, they may not respond in the way you need them to in order to delay urge or prevent urinary leakage. Over time, if postural dysfunction is not corrected, it can also be a contributing factor to urinary frequency.
As a general urological guideline, it's healthiest for your bladder when you pee as soon as your bladder is full of urine — basically, that stretching or fullness is what gives you the sensation that you have to pee. When you have the urge to go regardless of how much pee is in your bladder, it's a sign that there is something going on with your pelvic floor, bladder, or neurologic connection between these systems."
5. Mental health struggles amidst COVID-19 have left many bladders in a state of chronic stress
Let's face it - when you're afraid you are more likely to feel the urge to pee, and the pandemic and fear naturally went hand in hand. But if that urge is acted upon repeatedly when your bladder is not full, this can lead to increased feelings of urgency because your bladder gets used to functioning at a lower capacity than it's supposed to.
The article continues:
The burnout that has ripped through the healthcare industry like a wildfire has made it a lot harder to get care for those who do have the time, money, insurance benefits, and energy to seek treatment. Hopefully, though, there are small things that you can do and remember to protect your bladder and overall health as we continue to endure the ongoing pandemic."
In closing, if the combination of the pandemic and bladder health are not working in your favor, that's what we're here for. Use this link to schedule an appointment with one of our trained pelvic floor physical therapists.