How Does My Bladder Work? (Pelvic Health)

Today we are talking about one of my favourite pelvic organs- the bladder! The more I learned about this cool little organ, the more I have started to love it.  Understanding how the bladder works is crucial to understanding how some of the suggestions that pelvic physiotherapists make are relevant to you and your symptoms.  If anyone has been to me for bladder concerns, they will know that I love to draw the bladder.. And they will also know I am NOT an artist 😉 

The bladder is surrounded by a muscle on the outside called the Detrusor muscle, on the inside the bladder has a lining, and this is what fills with pee throughout the day.  

Bladder lining; arrows pointing to muscle around bladder, urethra, ureters and bladder lining

It is really important to note that there is ALWAYS a little bit of urine in the bladder after you finish going pee.  This means that even if you just went to the bathroom, and you went back two minutes later, you would have a little bit of pee come out.  I often get people telling me that they try to ‘pee everything out’ before they workout, or before they leave their house, and they get discouraged when they return to the washroom a few minutes later and can still go pee.  This is normal and your bladder is pretty good at holding in your pee, so try not to rush back to the washroom and try to force everything out. 

When you go pee, the muscle around your bladder has to contract to push out your pee and during this time your pelvic floor has to relax.  When your bladder relaxes, your pelvic floor has to contract to stop the flow and keep you continent once you get off the toilet. The best thing you can do when you go pee, is let your bladder muscles work, this means staying relaxed and trying not to force your pee out.  Pushing or straining to go pee can actually make it harder for your pee to get out, so try to sit down, relax and let your bladder do its thing! 

The lining of the bladder can be a sensitive little thing and it is easily irritated by what we are eating and drinking.   If you are experiencing bladder sensitivity or have bladder symptoms like going pee frequently, leaking or sudden strong urges, evaluate what you are eating and drinking.  Drinks that can cause bladder irritation include; coffee and tea (even decaf), alcohol and carbonated drinks.  In terms of food, things like tomato sauce, vinegar and artificial flavours and colours can make bladder symptoms worse.  Generally speaking, anything that is acidic has the potential to itch that bladder lining and should be avoided if you experience bladder concerns. 

The other thing that can irritate the bladder lining is being dehydrated.  There is a common misconception that if we just don’t drink, then we will have nothing to pee out.  BUT, our pee is also filtered waste from our kidneys, and despite what we drink, the kidney’s will continue to work and filter our body's waste.  This means that your bladder fills with pee, even without drinking liquid.  If you are dehydrated, the pee filling your bladder becomes quite concentrated with waste products that are being filtered out, and this type of pee can again, itch the bladder lining and make you have to pee! Yes, that means being dehydrated can actually make you go pee MORE! 

Too long, don’t read: The bladder has a muscle on the outside that contracts to push your pee out, this means you don’t need to push.  The inner lining fills with pee and can be irritated by acidic food and drinks and being dehydrated.  Your bladder never fully empties, so don’t try to push everything out!

Disclaimer: This information is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. This is not a substitute for medical advice. If you feel like you need more information I would strongly recommend you reach out to a physician or local pelvic floor physiotherapist.