Last Updated August 7th, 2021
What are Kegel exercises?
It is also called pelvic floor exercise. They are simple clench-and-release exercises that are performed to make the pelvic floor muscles stronger. A set of muscles and tissues in the pelvis area that forms a sling is called the pelvic floor. The area between the hips consisting of the reproductive organs is called the pelvic area. It is important to have a stable pelvic floor, as it aids in controlling the bowel and bladder.
Kegel exercises can be performed at any time and in any position. It is helpful for both men and women. The weakening of the pelvic floor is associated with old age, but in women, it can occur with pregnancy, childbirth, aging, as well as weight gain. One of the important symptoms would include urinary and bowel incontinence. Since the womb, bladder, and bowels are supported by the pelvic floor, it is important for them to be strong.
A weak pelvic floor may cause lowering of the womb, bowel, and bladder resulting in a very uncomfortable situation. Men usually experience them during old age, but can also occur because of an injury.
How to find the pelvic floor muscles?
Finding the muscle to start the exercise is quite tricky. For women, finding the muscle can be achieved by placing a finger inside the vagina and then tighten the vaginal muscles around the finger. The process of tightening the muscles of the vagina can determine the right muscle. Another way to locate the muscle can be achieved when you stop the flow of urine midway. If you are able to accomplish this then you have found the right muscle. These are called pelvic floor muscles which are contracted and relaxed to perform the Kegel exercise. The process of starting and stopping the urine should be done only to determine the muscle. It should not be continued later. Kegel exercise should be avoided when the bladder is full.
It is better to talk to your doctor if you are still not sure that you have found the right muscle. Your doctor may recommend using a vaginal cone, which can be inserted into the vagina and then use the pelvic floor muscles to keep it in place.
A doctor may also use biofeedback training. This is a procedure which is helpful to identify and isolate the pelvic floor muscles. During this training, the doctor may insert a probe into the vagina or may choose to put adhesive electrodes on the outside of the vagina or anus. You will be asked to perform the Kegel exercise and a monitor will display whether you contracted the correct muscles. It can also determine how long you were able to hold the contraction.
As discussed earlier, men experience urinary or bowel incontinence during the older age, but may also affect few men early in their life due to injury. Men too face the same problem as women when identifying the correct set of muscles. Men can identify the muscle by inserting a finger into the rectum and trying to squeeze the rectum around the finger. It should be noted that this process needs to be done without tightening the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs.
If you are not comfortable with this process, you can always try stopping and starting the urine stream midway. Note that this process should be followed only to identify the muscle and should not be continued later. If you are unsure of identifying the muscles, you can visit your doctor who would help you to identify it by conducting biofeedback training.
The right way to perform Kegel exercises
- Identify the right muscles: This process has been discussed earlier for both men and women. Many people find it easy to identify the pelvic floor muscles by stopping urination midstream. Once the muscles are identified, the Kegel exercise can be performed in any position. It should be noted that the exercise can be performed easiest when lying down.
- Perfect your technique: Once you have your act together, continue to do the exercise in isolation so that you can perfect it. Initially, you can tighten your pelvic muscles for a period of three seconds at a time and then relax for a count of three.
- Maintain your focus: Focusing becomes an important aspect for performing the exercise. Care should be taken to not flex the muscles in the abdomen, thighs or buttocks. You need to breathe freely and never try to hold your breath during the exercise.
- Repeat multiple times a day: It is important to repeat this process for at least three sets that include 10 to 15 repetitions a day.
Types of Kegel exercise
Generally, there are two types of exercises involved during the pelvic floor exercise.
- Fast Twitch Muscle Exercise – Fast twitch exercise is called a short contraction. As the name suggests, fast twitch muscles quickly shut off the flow of urine. This process of helpful in preventing urine leakage. In this case, the muscles are tightened, lifted up, and then released very quickly. It is important to contract when exhaling, and then continue to breathe normally when the exercise is performed.
- Slow Twitch Muscle Exercise – Slow twitch is referred to as long They work on the supportive strength of the muscles. The same process is followed that is muscles are tightened, lifted up, and then released, but this process is accomplished gradually. At the initial stages, the contractions could be held only for 1-2 seconds, but the goal is to achieve at least 10 seconds of contraction and 10 seconds of rest.
The perfect exercise plan would be to achieve 3 sets of 10 short and 10 long contractions twice per day. It should be noted that the quality of the exercise is more important than quantity. People suffering from weakened pelvic floor muscles can experience substantial gains in a period of 3 to 6 months.
During the training process, Kegel exercise can be performed with the use of some training aids such as vaginal weights, wands, etc. These aids can be obtained through a prescription from your doctor’s office. Other over the counter aids too are available in the market.
What are the benefits of Kegel exercises?
Help prevent and treat urine incontinence: It is a constant leakage of urine. This condition is actually involuntary. Women are affected more than men. An overactive bladder is considered to be the reason behind urine incontinence. Studies have indicated that Kegel exercises in women can be an excellent surgical alternative to treating bladder problems. Performing this exercise on a daily basis can improve pelvic floor muscles for better urine flow. Studies have also indicated that Kegel exercises can treat urinary incontinence in healthy and cancer-affected men.
Reduces fecal incontinence: Abnormal control of bowel can cause numerous problems such as constipation, inconsistency in the stool, as well as involuntary urination. Numerous factors are involved that lead to fecal incontinence. Some of them include environmental, dietary, as well as genetic factors. Kegel exercise with the help of healthy foods seems to be the solution for fecal incontinence. The goal would be to strengthen the muscles that have weakened due to regular stretching and contraction. Studies have indicated that performing Kegel exercises at least 3 times a day for more than 5 weeks can reduce symptoms of fecal incontinence.
Kegel exercises during pregnancy: It is important to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy. Certain physical exercises are necessary to reduce muscle discomfort during and after childbirth. Pelvic stretching and strengthening seem to be the best kind of exercise for pregnant women. Performing more Kegel exercise helps you to support the bladder, uterus, and bowels. It also helps to control the perineal tissues for childbirth. This exercise stops involuntary bladder flow and anus control. Pelvic muscles tend to become extremely tensed and stiff during labor, which is known to cause pain even after childbirth. Kegel exercises are helpful in muscle contraction by retracing back to its healthy and relaxed state.
Treats constipation: Constipation is often associated with unhealthy eating habits. Studies have indicated that Kegel exercises can help people suffering from recurring or chronic constipation. Kegel exercises are known to particularly target the passage of stools and stool consistency. Both these factors play an important role at impacting constipation. It is helpful in enhancing muscle training that improves the anus and rectum position. This exercise also targets colon health for proper bowel hygiene. Constipation may also cause tension of muscles, which can be relieved by performing a Kegel exercise.
Treats muscular stiffness caused by vaginismus: It is a sexual dysfunction causing involuntary vaginal spasms. Women are affected by this problem due to heavy-lifting or standing for long hours at their workplace. This condition affects sexual intercourse. This abnormal vaginal movement causes muscle stiffness, painful urination, etc. Kegel exercise relaxes the vaginal muscles, which enables you to have control over them. It also helps to fight chronic muscle spasms. Women who have just given birth to a child can also experience vaginismus. Performing this exercise on a regular basis gradually reduces these symptoms.
Helps make women’s pelvic stronger after childbirth: One of the important problems faced by women after childbirth include uterine prolapse. This is considered to be a serious medical condition causing weakened pelvic muscles and ligaments. During uterine prolapse, there is a downward shift of the uterus from its original position causing swelling, pain, as well as other infections. Studies have indicated that performing Kegel exercises daily can prevent uterine prolapse. People generally are unaware of these exercises and choose to undergo a hysterectomy to correct this problem. Surgery can be avoided if this exercise is performed daily. As discussed earlier, Kegel exercises provide better control over the perineal muscles, which prevents vaginal cramps and discomfort.
Might help treat erectile dysfunction: It is a very common problem among men. According to researchers, younger men are more affected than the older population. There are numerous medications available to treat this dysfunction but may cause side effects as well. Kegel exercises in combination with healthy eating can improve erectile function. Performing this exercise is helpful in promoting blood flow to and from the penis, which is helpful for normal erectile function. It also helps control premature ejaculation and other problems associated with erectile dysfunction.
Help women reduce urinary stress: Urinary stress and urinary incontinence can cause numerous problems including inflammation, cancer, as well as infections. Studies have indicated that stress incontinence can be reduced with the help of Kegel exercise. Since age, weight, and stress are key factors in determining this condition, pelvic floor exercises help improve urinary stress and incontinence.
Helpful in treating pelvic pain and bladder dysfunction: Studies have indicated that every one in three women faces problems related to pelvic pain and bladder dysfunction. Generally, people choose surgery to treat this problem, which may or may not be successful. Treating this problem in a non-surgical manner is considered possible with the help of Kegel exercises on a daily basis. During Kegel exercise, the muscles surrounding the vagina and bladder relax and contract, which is helpful in controlling these problems.
Any indication of pain in the abdomen or back after a Kegel exercise directly points out that you are not doing them correctly. It is important to note that the muscles in the abdomen, back, buttocks, and sides should remain loose while performing the exercise. It is always advised to not overdo Kegel exercise as it may cause other complications that can become irreversible.
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