Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
The Kegel exercise was named after its creator, Dr. Arnold Kegel, and involves contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. The purpose of this exercise is to improve your muscle tone through the strengthening of the pubococcygeus muscles, which are located along the pelvic floor. Kegels are often taught to pregnant women to prepare them for the stresses of bearing the weight of the third trimester and as a means of getting ready for vaginal childbirth.
Kegel exercises may also help to heal prolapses of pelvic structures and organs such as the uterus and vagina, and can also treat urinary incontinence. Some even say that Kegel exercises increase sexual pleasure.
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles including: cesarean section and other abdominal surgeries, obesity or overweight, the aging process, pregnancy, and childbirth. A physician can assess the degree of weakening either through placing the fingers into the vagina and asking the woman to squeeze and bear down, or by using a Kegel perinometer. No matter the cause of the weakening, Kegels can help restore the strength of the pelvic floor muscles.
Urinary incontinence is one of the most common symptoms seen as a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles. According to a meta-analysis by the Cochrane Collaboration on many random and controlled studies, pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) should be a part of any physician's first line of treatment in helping women patients with stress, urge, or mixed, urinary incontinence. This paper also found that the effect of PFMT was seen to be at its most effective for stress urinary incontinence in middle-aged women in their 40's and 50's.
To do Kegel muscles, start by locating your pubococcygeus (PC) muscles. The best way to do this is while urinating on the toilet. Try to stop the flow of urine. The muscles you use to stop the flow are your PC muscles. Squeeze your PC muscles as hard as possible, hold and release. Notice how your muscles feel after you release them.
The best way to practice Kegel exercises is to squeeze and hold the muscles for a count of 3-5 seconds, and then relax. Repeat these steps ten times.
The wonderful thing about Kegel exercises is that you can do them anytime and anywhere and no one will ever be the wiser. A good tip is to draw a large letter K on a piece of paper and hang it where you will see it often. Each time you see that K, do ten repetitions of the Kegel. Goodbye incontinence!