People with Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) can also experience incontinence or other kinds of bladder and bowel dysfunction. As a specialist explained in her interview with PF NOW!, everyone has a breathing diaphragm and a pelvic diaphragm, and the two have to work together. If the two diaphragms are not coordinated, then symptoms of incontinence can occur.
People with PF might not have coordination between their breathing and pelvic diaphragms for a variety of reasons. Many people with PF do not or cannot get much exercise, which causes muscles to atrophy and become weak. People with PF also cough often, which causes a lot of banging on the pelvic floor muscles, and also weakens the muscles. Further, people with PF might be taking short or shallow breaths, which is stressful on the body.
Fortunately, there are several simple exercises you can do from home to help prevent or improve incontinence. Here are a few movements you can do to help identify and activate your pelvic floor muscles. They can also help prevent other challenges, such as bladder or rectal prolapse (where the organs descend or droop outside of the vaginal canal or rectum).
- Picture your pubic bone, and then picture your tailbone.
Now, picture those two bones coming together. Repeat this visualization often to help develop your awareness and connection.
- From a seated position, spread your knees apart (at least a few inches) and then gently bring them back together. Do multiple repetitions, and revisit this exercise often. For example, next time you’re watching tv, try it out during a commercial break.
- If you feel a cough coming on, tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Try to squeeze and contract your muscles before, during, and after the cough. This will be hard to do at first. It will get easier with practice. Just make sure to let your muscles relax after this exercise!
- If you find you frequently need to urinate or have urinary urgency, you can do 3 quick squeezes before getting up to go to the bathroom. This works to quiet down your bladder. Doing quick pelvic squeezes like this can also teach your bladder that you are in control.