Meditation shows dramatic results for incontinence

May 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Healthy Ageing

It is no laughing matter, but ironically a laugh can be a real embarrassment if you suffer from incontinence. Sneezing and coughing can also cause leakage of urine and it’s something that affects around 5 million people in the UK. It’s not just your bladder that is affected either; regular incontinence can have other effects such as skin infections, sores and rashes. If you are getting up frequently in the night, then your sleep is affected and that can depress your immune system. In more severe cases sufferers feel ‘unclean’ and it affects their self esteem, sometimes leading to depression, and cause them to withdraw from social life and sexual activity.

Causes include infections and tumours, but the most common cause for women is the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles after childbirth, or as they get older.

There are many solutions available from the radical ones of surgery or drugs, but these do carry potential side effects. For example, the generic drug oxybutynin can affect the memory, make swallowing difficult, and been linked to blurred vision, constipation, drowsiness and confusion. The new generation of drugs are anticholinergics, generic name often prescribed is darifenacin and this has been linked to dry mouth, constipation, indigestion, blurred vision, decreased sweating leading to severe heat prostration, and abdominal pain. Natural methods have included commercially sold pelvic floor exercisers and simple home exercise plans to tighten the muscles. A new solution has just come from a Loyola University Health System (LUHS) study in the States which has found that meditation can be just as effective as drugs or surgery.

Meditation is usually associated with spiritual practice, or as a stress reduction technique, but whatever its purpose the effect is to use the brain to control the body. Meditation is known to be able to reduce blood pressure, but now it seems it can also control our bladders. One distressing feature of incontinence is the almost irresistible urge to urinate far more frequently than normal, and meditating helps control this impulse. This seems to be more effective for women than men, but certainly worth experimenting with for both sexes before taking drugs or resorting to surgery.

The study incorporated some cognitive therapy with meditation and visualisation focused on using deep breathing to relax the body. The average age of the study subjects was 62 and all had been diagnosed with ‘urge incontinence’ resulting from an overactive bladder. They practiced meditation by listening to a recording twice a day that took them through visualisation and relaxation exercises. Having done this twice a day for a fortnight, they also logged how many times they accidentally passed urine daily before and after participating in the study.

The researcher’s conclusion was that for the majority a dramatic improvement was seen. A sharp drop in the number of ‘accident’s was seen down from 40 to 12 which is very impressive, particularly when some subjects reported being able to leave home more often as they achieved a 98 percent leak-free day.

I don’t know what meditation they used, but if you want to try my meditation CD I would recommend you use the Blue Sky track and focus on visualising yourself going through a day being dry, comfortable and active. If you want to know more please visit

Another simple technique is the ‘elevator exercise’ where you tighten and hold the pelvic muscles as you imagine them pulling upwards as if in an elevator. You ‘pause’ the elevator at each floor and hold and relax the muscles, then continue on up to the next floor. Doing this exercise of contracting, holding and releasing frequently during the day is also a good way of keeping the muscles toned and avoiding future episodes of incontinence.