You know that running strengthens your legs and lifting weights strengthens your arms… but what about the muscles that you don’t see? They may not have anything to do with looking “fit,” but, your pelvic floor muscles are hard at work every day. The pelvic floor muscles surround the urethra, and when working properly, they are tight and hold urine in the bladder preventing any leakage. (1) That makes them pretty important right?
Now, you may have heard the term “Kegel Exercises,” and wondered what they are, who they’re for, and how to perform them. If that sounds familiar, keep reading, we’re here to demystify Kegels!
Kegel exercises were named after the physician who developed them, and are aimed at strengthening the body’s pelvic floor muscles. (2) And considering that they play such a large role in urinary health (holding urine in, and controlling the urge to go), it’s important for everyone to have strong pelvic floor muscles.
So, how do you know if you’re “working out” your pelvic floor muscles? Consider a situation where you would be trying to avoid “passing urine.” You would naturally tighten your pelvic floor muscles to suppress any gas trying to escape. Recreating this same muscle flexing is what is required to perform Kegel exercises. Do not perform these while on the toilet.
A technique for women:
For women exercising the pelvic floor, they should feel a slight pull of the rectum and vagina. To help learn how to flex the right muscles, insert 1-2 fingers into the vagina when laying down. Attempt to squeeze your finger(s) using the muscles of the vagina. If you feel your vagina flexing, you are using the right muscles. (3)
A technique for men:
When men are engaging the pelvic floor, they should feel a pull of the anus and movement of the penis. To get the technique correct, try standing in front of the mirror and moving your penis, without moving any other part of your body. If you are able to do this, you are using the right muscles. (3)
Tightening the pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds, and resting for 5 seconds, equals one repetition. A good starting point is to complete 10 repetitions/day. You should also try different positions twice a day.
Don’t be discouraged if you have difficulty locating your pelvic floor muscles, it can be challenging to do alone. Many patients accidentally exercise their thigh, butt, and chest muscles (or even make funny faces or clinch their fists) when attempting to locate their pelvic floor muscles. (3)
If you are not sure how to accurately perform Kegel exercises, Virginia Urology has resources to help. Our in-house physical therapists are board certified and highly specialized to treat urological conditions. They can work with you to teach you how to correctly and effectively strengthen your pelvic floor. This is particularly helpful for people suffering from urinary incontinence, overactive bladder and fecal incontinence.
Working with our physical therapists can help patients avoid surgery and can even achieve better results than medication in the long run. Your physician will work closely with your physical therapist to determine the best physical therapy regimen to accomplish your goals