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Kegel Exercises for Women

December 10, 2010

What are Kegel exercises?

A Kegel exercise, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, consists of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor. To do Kegel exercises, you just squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. The part of your body including your hip bones is the pelvic area. At the bottom of the pelvis, several layers of muscle stretch between your legs. The muscles attach to the front, back, and sides of the pelvic bone.

The Pelvic Floor Muscles

The aim of Kegel exercises is to improve muscle tone by strengthening the pubococcygeus muscles (also called the PC muscle) of the pelvic floor. These are the muscles that hold up your bladder and help keep it from leaking. Building up your pelvic muscles with Kegel exercises can help with your bladder control. Kegel is a popular prescribed exercise for pregnant women to prepare the pelvic floor for physiological stresses of the later stages of pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. Kegel exercises are said to be good for treating vaginal prolapse and preventing uterine prolapse in women and for treating prostate pain and swelling resulting from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis in men. Kegel exercises may be beneficial in treating urinary incontinence in both men and women. Kegel exercises may also increase sexual gratification and aid in reducing premature ejaculation.

How do you exercise your pelvic muscles?

Find the right muscles. Try one of the following ways to find the right muscles to squeeze.

  • Imagine that you are trying to stop passing gas. Squeeze the muscles you would use. If you sense a “pulling” feeling, you are squeezing the right muscles for pelvic exercises.
  • Imagine that you are sitting on a marble and want to pick up the marble with your vagina. Imagine “sucking” the marble into your vagina.
  • Lie down and put your finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urine from coming out. If you feel tightness on your finger, you are squeezing the right pelvic muscles.

Palpation of the Pubococcygeus

Palpation of the Pubococcygeus for Tone and Function.

The index finger introduced to about the second joint and moved about normally meets resistance in all directions (Figure 9). When the pubococcygeus is atrophic, the middle third of the vagina is roomy; the walls are thin and feel as though detached from the surrounding structures, particularly anteriorly and laterally (Figure 10). Normal patients can voluntarily contract the pubococcygeus firmly about the palpating finger. When atrophy has occurred, no such contractions can be elicited.

A Kegel exerciser is a medical device designed to be used by women to exercise the pubococcygeus muscle (also called the PC muscle). There are three main types: barbells, springs, and rubber bulbs. Made of smooth, polished solid stainless steel, it is cylindrical in shape, with a rounded bulge at each end. They typically weigh one pound (454g) and measure approximately 6 inches (17.1 & 160 cm) in length with a diameter of one inch (2.5 & 160 cm) at the widest part. Being made of stainless steel, vaginal barbells are nonporous and can be wiped clean with a cloth moistened with mild soap and water. Spring devices are made of plastic, with removable springs to allow progressive resistance. These allow pressing directly against resistance. An advantage of rubber bulb devices is that they provide visual feedback (via a gauge) of how much pressure is being applied.

Factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, being overweight, and abdominal surgery such as cesarean section, often result in the weakening of the pelvic muscles. This can be assessed by either digital examination of vaginal pressure or using a Kegel perineometer. Kegel exercises are useful in regaining pelvic floor muscle strength in such cases.

Let your doctor, nurse, or therapist help you. Many people have trouble finding the right muscles. Your doctor, nurse, or therapist can check to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. You can also exercise by using special weights or biofeedback. Ask your health care team about these exercise aids.

Don’t squeeze other muscles at the same time. Be careful not to tighten your stomach, legs, or other muscles. Squeezing the wrong muscles can put more pressure on your bladder control muscles. Just squeeze the pelvic muscle. Don’t hold your breath.

Repeat, but don’t overdo it. At first, find a quiet spot to practice — your bathroom or bedroom — so you can concentrate. Lie on the floor. Pull in the pelvic muscles and hold for a count of 3. Then relax for a count of 3. Work up to 10 to 15 repeats each time you exercise. Use the Exercise Log below to keep track of your sessions.

Do your pelvic exercises at least three times a day. Every day, use three positions: lying down, sitting, and standing. You can exercise while lying on the floor, sitting at a desk, or standing in the kitchen. Using all three positions makes the muscles strongest.

Be patient. Don’t give up. It’s just 5 minutes, three times a day. You may not feel your bladder control improve until after 3 to 6 weeks. Still, most women do notice an improvement after a few weeks.

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From → The Vulva

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