Leaking when your run? Leaking urine is very common in runners. However it is a sign that your pelvic floor is not coping and this may make you susceptible to other problems.

Is it normal to leak when I run?

Leaking when you run? No, this is not normal. However incontinence in runners is very common. Researchers have found that as many as 30% of female runners have experienced leaking while running. In fact, elite athletes and people who play high impact sports are at increased risk of developing pelvic floor problems.  This is because of the constant and excessive downward pressure that these sports place on their pelvic floor.

Common signs of a pelvic floor weakness:

  • leaking urine while running
  • leaking with sneezing, coughing, laughing or other exercise
  • needing to rush to the toilet
  • constantly needing to go to the  toilet
  • finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
  • accidentally passing wind
  • a sensation of heaviness, discomfort, dragging or a feeling of bulging in the vagina in women. In men, this may be felt as a bulge in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bowels but not actually needing to go
  • painful sex

Hip, back and pelvic pain can all be associated with pelvic floor problems. Leaking when you run may be the tip of the iceberg.

Some people are more at risk of developing pelvic floor problems. These include:

  • pregnant women or when you have recently had a baby
  • all women who have had a baby
  • peri or postmenopausal women
  • women who have had gynaecological surgery such as a hysterectomy, bladder or prolapse surgery
  • men who have had prostate surgery

Other risk factors for pelvic floor weakness include:

  • constipation (i.e. regularly straining to empty your bowels)
  • chronic coughing or sneezing (e.g. due to asthma, smoking or hayfever)
  • being overweight
  • heavy lifting on a regular basis, e.g. at work or the gym

How to stop leaking while running

  • See a pelvic floor physiotherapist for specific pelvic floor muscle training.
  • Modify your training. For example alternating between high and low impact exercise (e.g. running and swimming). Protect your pelvic floor, reduce leaking while running, until your pelvic floor muscles are stronger.
  • Pacing/ interval running (e.g. 1km run followed by 1km walk) can also reduce the load on your pelvic floor.
  • Running on softer surfaces (e.g. grass, gravel, sand) may reduce the impact on your pelvic floor
  • Slow down and shorten your stride. High speed running will be more likely to cause greater downward pressure on the pelvic floor. Long stride length increases the impact of running.
  • Intravaginal devices (such as a vaginal pessary or ring) can be helpful for some women with bladder or prolapse symptoms. These are inserted prior to and removed following exercise, but should only be used with advice from a health care professional.

If you have any specific concerns, we would recommend you could see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. This is a physiotherapist who has undertaken specialised training in this area, is able to assess your pelvic floor and give you specific guidance with what exercises are safe for you. https://betterhealthpractice.com.au/the-pelvic-floor-all-you-need-to-know-to-get-started/

Janette O’Toole

Janette O’Toole

Pelvic Health Physiotherapist
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