Kegel Exercise's For Your Pelvic Floor
In both men and women, the muscles of the pelvic floor play a significant role in controlling the flow of urine from the bladder and maintaining continence. They not only provide support for the bladder and bowel, they also help to strengthen the sphincters that keep the urine in.
Unfortunately, there are many ways that the pelvic floor muscles can become weakened over time, including pregnancy and childbirth, surgery, weight gain and simple aging. However, all is not lost as you can restore the strength to your pelvic floor muscles with simple daily exercises that you can do almost anywhere.
These are called pelvic floor exercises or Kegel exercises, after Dr Arnold Kegel, an American gynaecologist who first developed them in the 1940. They will not only increase your bladder control but can also improve sexual function and help protect women from the risk of prolapse, especially following a hysterectomy.
How to do Kegel exercises
The essence of the Kegel exercise is to squeeze and hold the muscles of the pelvic floor in order to exercise and strengthen them. To help identify these muscles, try stopping your urine in mid flow. The muscles you use to do so are the ones you want to work on. You can also find these muscles by sitting down and imagining you are trying to lift a marble off the chair.
Start by squeezing these muscles for a count of three then relaxing for a count of three. Repeat this ten to fifteen times, three times a day. Gradually, as you build your strength, you can increase the length of each hold, the number of repetitions and the number of times you exercise each day.
The great thing about Kegels is that you are the only one who knows you are doing them, so you can exercise on the bus to work, watching TV or anywhere else, making them as convenient as they are simple. It helps if you get into the habit of doing them while you are doing something else you do daily, such as brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil for your morning coffee. You will start to notice results within a few weeks, and after a few months, you may notice that you no longer need incontinence underwear or pads.
Dos and don’ts of Kegel exercises:
- Do make them part of your daily routine for maximum benefit
- Do stick with them, as results can take a few weeks or even months
- Do make sure you are using the right muscles
- Do build up slowly, as you would with any other exercise
- Do ask for help if you need it from your GP or continence team
- Don’t do Kegels regularly while urinating as this can cause problems
- Don’t tense your thighs, buttocks or abdomen while doing Kegels
- Don’t hold your breath during the squeezes
- Don’t expect an overnight improvement
- Don’t over-do it as you can strain the muscles
Help with Kegel exercises
Most people find Kegel exercises to be very simple and straightforward, but If you are struggling, or can’t identify the right muscles, don’t hesitate to talk to your continence team or your GP, as there are many ways that they can help. For example, they can provide a special cone, which is inserted into the vagina. Using your pelvic floor muscles to squeeze and hold this cone in place achieves the same effect as Kegel exercises. Biofeedback can also be used to ensure that you are contracting the correct muscles.
Kegel exercises are easy to do and can bring real benefits to both men and women of all ages, especially following childbirth and as you grow older. Just a few minutes of simple, discreet exercises each day can be all it takes to significantly reduce, or even cure, mild to moderate urinary incontinence.