Sports Massage – the urinary system
Our latest Sports Massage blog focuses on the urinary system. This manages the balance and elimination of fluids taken into the body. It is an essential part of homeostasis (see also our blog on The Endocrine System).
Personal trainers, fitness professionals and sports massage therapists will be aware of the importance of encouraging clients to stay hydrated during and after training, as well as in everyday life. Hydration and the processing of fluids is the main function of the urinary system.
What is the urinary system?
Working in tandem with the digestive system (see our blog on: Sports Massage – The digestive system), the urinary system controls the balance between the fluid and electrolytes in the body. Its main function is to filter, reabsorb and secrete fluids, eliminating waste through the urine.
The urinary system comprises the following structures:
- Two kidneys
- Two ureters
- A urinary bladder
- A urethra
What are the functions of the urinary system structures?
Taking these in turn:
The left and right kidney are found below the ribs at the rear of the abdomen on either side of the body. The right kidney sits below the liver. They can range in weight from around 110g to 170g each.
Their job is to filter waste from the bloodstream, balance levels of hydration and the secretion of urine, and ensure that electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are kept at the right levels.
Other functions include releasing hormones to help blood pressure regulation and manage red blood cell production.
Waste and fluid is pushed from the bloodstream into the kidneys because of the varying pressure between the two. Hormones released by glands such as the hypothalamus, parathyroid, thyroid and adrenal glands cause the kidneys to reabsorb excreted substances needed by the body.
Around a million nephrons with tiny blood capillaries are found in each kidney. These filter out water, waste products and unwanted electrolytes to form urine, which can then be expelled down the renal tubules.
Made up of exterior fibrous tissue, smooth muscle at the centre and epithelial tissue on the inside, the ureters are around 25-30cm in length. Their function is to tighten and relax to push urine from the kidneys into the urinary bladder. This happens automatically around every 10 seconds. Pressure from the bladder causes the ends of the ureters to close to prevent the backflow of urine.
The urinary bladder
Like the ureters, the bladder has connective tissue on the outside, a centre of smooth muscle and an epithelial membrane inside. Its walls expand to allow it to fill with urine and contract when the urine passes out through the urethra. A person will usually need to urinate when there are around 300-400ml of urine in the bladder and will pass around 800-2,000ml of urine a day.
This tube is formed of smooth muscle and runs from the urinary bladder to a point of exit. In women this is located in front of the vagina; in men the urethra runs down the penis.
Keeping hydrated and healthy
The colour of an individual’s urine can help to ascertain whether they are sufficiently hydrated, with clear or light-coloured urine signifying good hydration and cloudy or dark urine implying dehydration.
Cloudy urine can also indicate infections, kidney problems or a chronic disease. Blood in your urine can be caused by infection, kidney disease or tumours. In all cases it’s best to get this checked out by a medical professional.