The benefits of Kegel exercises are often thought of in terms of female health, since incontinence due to pelvic floor weakening usually is more common in women. However, if you have had radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy due to prostate cancer, you may experience some degree of incontinence. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, removal of the prostate gland or radiation therapy may cause damage to the urinary sphincter, which controls urinary flow and stoppage. This effect may resolve itself within weeks or months, or may persist for a longer period of time. Talk to your doctor about your concerns regarding post-surgery incontinence, as well as possible solutions.
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Types of Incontinence
There are various types of of incontinence that may affect you after prostate surgery. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, you may experience stress incontinence, which occurs as a result of activity or after sneezing, coughing or laughing. Another type of incontinence, urge incontinence, manifests as a sudden, emergent need to urinate, followed by leakage. Overflow incontinence happens when your bladder becomes overly full and "overflows," often as a result of blockage at the exit of the bladder. This type of blockage may be due to enlarged prostate, or from scar tissue due to cancer or radiation.
According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, most men who have undergone a radical prostatectomy will experience some degree of leakage for a few months, although some men may have no leakage and others will have ongoing leakage. According to Florida Hospital Global Robotics Institute, you will generally leave the hospital with a protective pad for leakage, and should do 300 Kegel exercises per day. You can begin practicing Kegels even before your surgery. As you begin to regain bladder control, you will first notice an ability to stay dry through the night, and will gradually develop night time and early morning control. Eventually, you will stay dry all day.
Although you may not know how to do Kegel exercises, the use of the pelvic floor muscles is something you are likely familiar with. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center notes that each time you tighten your pelvic muscles to control the flow of urine or stop yourself from passing gas, you are essentially doing a Kegel exercise. This flexing of the pelvic floor muscle can be done at any time of day and in any setting. Be sure to flex only your pelvic muscles, not your thighs or your abdominal muscles.
In addition to the very specific mechanism of Kegel exercises, you can benefit from exercise in general in preventing post-prostatectomy incontinence. Reuters cites a study conducted at Washington University School of Medicine In St. Louis, which found that men who exercised and were not obese prior to prostatectomy had a decreased chance of incontinence after the surgery. The study, which was led by Kathleen Y. Wolin, assessed the incidence of incontinence among 195 men one year after prostatectomy surgery. Further studies are needed to confirm these results.
Although the authors of the Washington University School of Medicine study weren't sure precisely why men who exercised experienced less incontinence than their non-active counterparts, overall muscle tone has been asserted as a possibility. Better overall muscle tone may also enhance bladder control. The study found that active men who were also obese still had a lower incontinence rate than obese men who didn't exercise. Talk to your doctor about a healthy exercise regimen following prostate surgery.