A kegel exercise involves a “clench-and-release” motion to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These exercises are also called pelvic floor exercises or pelvic floor muscle training and can be done anywhere and anytime.
The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles between your hips that support your internal organs. These muscles are responsible for the stop motion of your urine flow that you can perform while it’s on its way down your body and into the toilet. When a person’s pelvic floor is weak, they are likely to develop bowel and bladder control issues.
There are several benefits to performing kegel exercises. Kegel exercises strengthen and tighten the pelvic floor muscles and help prevent urine leakage (bladder incontinence) and bowel incontinence. They also help you avoid passing gas accidentally. These exercises might also affect sexual function, and have some boosting effects on the quality of your orgasms.
What Are Kegel Exercises?
The point of kegel exercises is to strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor. Thus, they are also often called pelvic floor muscle exercises or pelvic floor muscle training.
Your pelvic floor is the muscular region in your lower abdomen that’s joined to the pelvis. They are present in both males and females and their muscles support your pelvic organs, such as your bladder, rectum and uterus (or prostate for men).
Kegel exercises help to keep these pelvic floor muscles strengthened. This helps keep urine from leaking from your bladder and prevents accidental discharge of stool or gas. A strengthened pelvic floor might also help improve your orgasms.
If your pelvic floor muscles are not fit, it could lead to a medical condition known as pelvic organ prolapse. This condition is when an organ (or organs) in your pelvis moves from its position and bulges or droops down into the vagina or anus region. This condition can cause extreme pain and discomfort but is not lethal.
Common Symptoms Of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse affects around 3 percent of women in the US. When your pelvic floor muscles are too weak or damaged to support your organs, it leads to pelvic organ prolapse. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include:
- A ”heavy” feeling around your genitals and your lower abdomen
- Pain in your lower back
- Feeling a lump in your vagina, that feels like you’re sitting on a tiny ball
- A “dragging” sensation inside your vagina
- Experiencing frequent small urine leakage, especially when you sneeze, laugh or cough, or during your workouts (urinary incontinence)
- Feeling genital discomfort or numbness during sex (sexual insensitivity)
- Feeling a need to pee frequently
- Feeling that your bladder is not fully emptied after peeing
- Experiencing fecal incontinence, i.e., your poop/feces leaking out
- Feeling sudden urges to pee that might result in your urine leaking
Causes Of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Here are a few of the common reasons a person might develop pelvic organ prolapse.
- Vaginal childbirths, especially if you had a difficult labor or birthed a big child
- Cesarean section or any pelvic-related surgery
- Aging and menopause
- Being overweight or obese
- Frequent heavy lifting
- Frequent sneezing or coughing feats
- Some exercise regimens like weight lifting and jumping
- Prolonged constipation
- Having a medical/respiratory condition that makes you cough and strain frequently
- Having a hysterectomy
- Having cancer in the pelvic region
- Genetics – Some people may have a predisposition to developing this condition if they have family members who have experienced it
How To Locate Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles are involved in some significant motions we carry out throughout the day and are quite easy to locate. This group of muscles is shaped like a sling or hammock; they span through your front pubic bones to your tailbones.
To get a feel of where these muscles are, start by lying down or sitting on a chair. Now, imagine you are trying to stop urinating midstream or stop yourself from farting. The muscles you feel constricting or lifting are your pelvic floor muscles.
If you have trouble locating these muscles, try stopping yourself while urinating. You use your pelvic floor muscles to carry out this action. Ensure you do not do this often, as it could lead to medical issues like urinary tract infections. Also, do not carry out kegel exercises when you have a full bladder, as it could cause health issues.
Specific To Women
For women, another way to locate these muscles is to stick your finger into your vagina and try to squeeze your vaginal muscles around the finger. These muscles that tighten around your finger are muscles of your pelvic floor and are the focus of kegel exercises.
How To Perform Kegel (Pelvic Floor) Exercises
Performing kegel exercises is simple and does not require equipment. After identifying your pelvic floor muscles, simply “lift” them, hold them in that position for a few seconds, and then release them.
You should hold for about 3 to 5 seconds, then relax for that same time. Repeat this squeeze-and-release motion 8 to 12 times (one set), taking short breaks in between. You should do these sets at least twice daily.
As you get familiar with the motions, you can start increasing the frequency of your Kegels. To do this, you can increase the time you hold and the number of repetitions in one set. Lastly, you should increase the number of sets you perform daily.
You can perform this internal exercise while you’re sitting, lying down, or standing. While doing this exercise, ensure you are not holding your breath. Instead, try to relax your thighs and buttocks while breathing normally.
Men can also carry out Kegels by simultaneously squeezing their pelvic muscles as if to shorten the penis and lift the base of their scrotum. Try to hold this position for 3 to 5 minutes or more. Then, release your muscles to complete your kegel exercise.
Other Aided Ways To Perform Kegel Exercises
Some people might experience challenges lifting or even finding their pelvic floor muscles. If you have trouble performing Kegels, a medical professional can help you find the right muscles to exercise. Doctors might employ urethral and pelvic devices to treat urinary incontinence (frequent urine leaks) in women. There are also a few more ways that a doctor or pelvic floor therapist can explore to help you identify and perform kegel exercises appropriately:
Biofeedback involves using sensors attached to your pelvic area to help you develop proper control over your pelvic floor muscles. Your healthcare professional will carry out this therapy to help determine if you are squeezing the right muscles. To carry out this therapy, your doctor will place adhesive electrodes on your vagina or put a probe into it.
Afterward, you are to perform Kegels while the professional determines from the monitor if you have isolated the right muscles. The professional will then teach you how to isolate the correct muscles until you can perform kegel exercises correctly. This can take hours or days, depending on the underlying cause.
One other method your doctor might use is inserting a cone into your vagina. After inserting it, your doctor will ask you to use your pelvic muscle contractions to keep the cone in place without falling off.
This method sends a slight, painless electric charge through your pelvic area. This helps to squeeze the muscles, thus simulating what a proper kegel exercise feels like.
Tips To Perform Kegels
Kegel exercises have to be performed accurately to have any health benefits. Observe these tips to practice Kegels correctly and keep your pelvic floor strong.
- When starting out on doing Kegels, ensure that you’re doing a routine that is convenient for you. If that means three-second holds five times in a set, then do it. As you begin to get familiar with the routine, you can make it more frequent.
- Do not practice kegel exercises while your bladder is full
- Practice your kegel sets at least twice a day when sitting, standing or lying down.
- If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, you should first practice your kegel exercises while lying down.
- Ensure you are not squeezing other muscles like your buttocks or thighs while carrying out a kegel exercise.
FAQs On Kegel Exercises
How soon will I see changes after doing kegel exercises?
Depending on the severity of the case, women might see significant improvement in the frequency of their urine leaks in a few weeks or months. If you think your kegel exercises are not effective, consult your doctor.
Do men need kegel exercises?
Even though these exercises are more beneficial to women, men have a lot to gain by doing them. It might be helpful to men who have recently undergone prostate surgery and have stress incontinence or those who deal with premature ejaculation.
To Conclude Upon: Does Kegel Exercises Have Benefits?
Physical exercises, including Kegel exercises, have therapeutic benefits. Moreover, these Kegel exercises are beneficial to your pelvic health. As an adult woman or man, it is essential to carry out these muscular exercises at least twice daily if you want to keep your pelvic floor fit.
Kegel exercises are simple to practice; thus, you should do them as often as four times a day if possible. If you have trouble doing your Kegels, your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist.