Over the past few years as the majority of the office workforce has been switching their work situation from in the office to work-from-home, we have seen a trend start to surface in our clinic.
We have seen a big influx of people coming to our clinic presenting with things like increased frequency (how often they go to the bathroom) as well as urgency (that strong urge that comes out of nowhere) and even incontinence associated with both! Most reporting problems started when they began working from home! Today, we want to dive into WHY we have seen an increase in these problems as well as WHAT you can do to help your pee problem.
When we look at a happy bladder, we should see the ability to void every 3-4 hours. Normal control of the bladder also includes the ability to make it to the bathroom even if the bladder is full. Your signals telling you to pee should slowly grow over time and never be associated with loss of urine.
So why would working from home make things harder? While it seems backwards that this would get worse when working from home due to the fact that getting to the bathroom is easy access at any time. This is a classic example of too much of a good thing becoming a bad thing. Bladders works on a feedback loop, one that can be overtrained and undertrained. So when working from home, most of the time if there is any urge to pee we will usually just go, but the overtraining happens when we go to the bathroom with slightest urge to pee. That slight urge that is easily controlled initially, starts to be trained like it is the sign of a full bladder, because you go to the bathroom whenever you sense it. Little by little the feedback loop becomes this very sensitive system. Then this slight urge transfers into a fire alarm and full emergency thus making it really hard to make it to the bathroom.
If you feel like this describes you in your day to day life, the nice part about it is that we can revert those alarms to be more natural and appropriate. It just takes time and attention to what your habits are day to day.
Time it Out
A normal and healthy bladder schedule looks like using the bathroom every 3-4 hours. If controlling urgency is difficult, you might find that you are using the bathroom more frequently than that. This usually does not mean that you can't hold it longer but you have just trained your system to not have to hold it as long. So we would encourage you to take note of when you use the bathroom and if you know it has been less than 3 hours since you went last, try pushing it back 15 minutes. Do that by distracting yourself and getting your mind off it, so go ahead and write that email response instead of waiting until later or do that online shopping that you know you want to do instead of working. All of these can be helpful in down training that urgency feeling to being not quite so dramatic.
Watch Your Intake
Most of the time we find that people think that water intake is the achilles heel of constant restroom use but more frequently we are concerned about what you are drinking, not how much. So things like coffee, carbonated water or sodas and caffeinated drinks can be bladder irritants making it more uncomfortable for you to hold it. First things first, take note if any beverage makes it feel more difficult for you to hold it, or cause you to feel the need to use the restroom almost immediately afterwards. If you find that is true after drinking something like coffee, try diluting it with water, taking sips of water in between sips of coffee. This helps dilute the concentration of coffee in your systems and decreases the concentration of irritant making it easier for you to hold it.
Urgency can be a tricky thing, and has a snowball effect. Once the urge to go to the bathroom comes on and it starts to build it can be very overwhelming. The panic of getting to the bathroom makes it feel more urgent and the urgency makes you panic more. The number one goal here is to not fall into the drama that your bladder is trying to drag you into. If the urgency comes on and you are heading to the bathroom, walk normally, resist the temptation to rush because the more you rush and panic, the more you feed the urgency beast. When you see the toilet, don't freak out, reassure yourself that you are going to make it in time. At the end of the day just be cool, our bladders can be like little divas making you feel like you have to be way more dramatic than necessary and can lead to loss of control if we fall into the drama. You can make it to the bathroom in time, you just have to remind yourself that you are in control, not your bladder.
Urge incontinence treatment is not a one size fits all approach, it does best when it is personalized to your life and your specific triggers. These guidelines are for those who just need a simple switch in habits and may not work for everyone. Regardless, there is a lot that can be done for it to treat it so don't feel like there are no other options if these did not work for you. Find a provider near you who can help you find what your personalized treatment plan needs to be. If nothing else, remember, don't fall into the drama and just be cool.