What Are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises (or "Kegels") are a simple and efficient approach to locate and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bladder, rectum, and uterus. By enhancing pelvic floor muscle tone, you can help prevent and treat a number of common pelvic floor diseases, such as urine incontinence (UI), faecal incontinence (FI), and pelvic organ prolapse (POP), which can result from pregnancy and childbirth.
Origins of Kegels
Initiated in the 1940s by American physician Arnold Kegel as a nonsurgical treatment for incontinence, the exercise has become a first-line treatment for urinary stress incontinence, vaginal, bladder, or uterine prolapse (sagging), and other pelvic health issues.
In addition, Kegel exercises can be used to avoid these difficulties, which is why many doctors and other health professionals recommend healthy women, especially those in their forties and older, to perform them consistently.
Benefits of Kegel Exercises
1) Kegel exercises target the pelvic floor, a group of muscles in the pelvic area extending like a hammock from the tailbone to the pubic bone. The principal pelvic floor muscle is the pubococcygeus (PC), which runs along and around the urethra, vagina, and rectum openings.
2) A robust pelvic floor can aid in the prevention and/or treatment of the following:
- Few drops of urine while coughing.
- Physical activity, laughter, or sneezing (stress urinary incontinence)
- Urge to urinate which is intense and abrupt (urgency urinary incontinence)
- Unexpected faeces loss (fecal incontinence)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
3) Exercise of the pelvic floor muscles also tones the vaginal muscles, which can improve sexual health and pleasure. In fact, research has demonstrated a significant association between weaker pelvic floor muscles and sexual dysfunction.
4) Kegel exercises can be used to treat or prevent pelvic health issues, and it is generally safe to begin them at any time. Nevertheless, if you have an overactive pelvic floor, Kegel exercises may exacerbate your symptoms. A pelvic floor physiotherapist can analyze your pelvic floor and provide you with advice and a personalized treatment plan.
5) Kegel exercises can help reverse, relieve, or prevent a number of common pregnant and postpartum pelvic health issues, including:
- Constipation or discomfort during bowel motions.
- Feeling like you aren't "done" with a bowel movement.
- Leakage of faeces
- Lower backache
- Painful urination
- Ache with interaction
- Postpartum incontinence (stress urinary incontinence, urgency urinary incontinence, mixed incontinence)
If you have special pelvic health concerns, particularly if you are pregnant or have recently given birth, it is advisable to visit your doctor before commencing these exercises.
How to Perform Kegel Exercises
Fortunately, Kegels are a pretty easy and effective exercise that the vast majority of people can use to significantly enhance pelvic floor muscle tone.
Kegel exercises are repetitive contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. There is no specific equipment required to execute these exercises, and they may be performed anywhere. Simply locate the appropriate muscles, contract, hold, release, and repeat.
Kegels can be performed virtually anywhere and need only a few minutes per day.
Performing Kegel Exercises
Once you have mastered the proper technique, you can perform Kegel exercises in any position and in any location.
Here are four comfortable starting positions:
- Kneeling on all fours
- Lying down
Ideally, all four postures should be performed daily for optimal strength. One approach to visualize performing Kegels is by contracting and lifting from the vaginal entrance toward the cervix. Some compare this tightening motion to riding an elevator to its maximum height. Then, when the muscles relax, ride the elevator back down to the ground floor.
As with any exercise regimen, it takes time to observe a significant increase in muscular strength by performing Kegels. Within three to six weeks of routinely performing these exercises, many people see a difference in their bladder strength (with fewer "accidents" and longer intervals between bathroom trips), but outcomes vary greatly from person to person.
If Kegel exercises alone do not alleviate your problems, you may be advised to undergo physical therapy or surgery. However, this very simple exercise can make a significant difference for the majority of people, and once you get the hang of them, Kegels are typically straightforward to include into your daily routine.