Kegel Exercises: What are They? Who Should Use Them?

 What are Kegel Exercises?

Kegels are exercises used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, uterus and bowels. They are a set of contraction and relaxation exercises that take only a few minutes each day, but can make a big difference in your quality of life!

Who Should Do Kegel Exercises?

Kegels are recommended for women who have incontinence, or urinary leakage. This can occur when you cannot reach the bathroom in time, or during laughing, coughing, sneezing or exercise.

By learning how to control these pelvic floor muscles and by strengthening them, you may be able to reduce the amount of urinary leakage.

How are Kegel Exercises Performed?

To begin, you first need to identify the pelvic floor muscles. There are two ways to do this:

• Lie down and put a finger in the vagina. Squeeze as if you were stopping urination.

If you feel tightening around your finger, these are the muscles you need to contract for Kegels.

• While urinating, stop the urine flow midstream. The muscles you use to stop urine are the ones you need to contract for Kegels. It is OK to do this while identifying the right muscles, however do NOT perform your daily Kegels while urinating because this can cause voiding dysfunction.

It is a common mistake to use the wrong muscles. The most commonly used incorrect muscles are the abdominal muscles. While performing a Kegel, place a hand over your abdomen. If you feel tightening or movement of your abdominal muscles, you are using the wrong muscles.

Now You are Ready to Strengthen These Muscles. Follow These Steps:

• Contract, or tighten, these muscles for 10 seconds.

• Relax the muscles completely for 10 seconds.

• Repeat steps 1 and 2 for five minutes (about 10 contraction/relaxation sets) three times each day.

If you cannot hold a contraction for 10 seconds when you first start Kegels, do not get frustrated! Pelvic floor muscles need to build up their strength, just like any other muscle in your body. It is not necessary to do Kegels for more than five minutes per set or more than 3 sets per day. This will not strengthen your muscles more quickly. Instead, it will cause muscle fatigue, which could lead to more leakage.

When Should Kegels Be Done?

Kegels can be done anytime, anywhere.

When done correctly, no one should be able to tell you are doing them! When you are first learning to do Kegels correctly, it might be best to do while sitting on a chair or lying down. Do not perform Kegels while urinating.

Now that you know how to use these muscles, contract them during activities that cause you to leak urine. If you are incontinent when you laugh, cough, or sneeze, or with position changes, contract these muscles while you are laughing, coughing, or sneezing or before you stand up from a sitting position. If you are incontinent when you get the urge to urinate, do NOT run to the bathroom. Stop, contract the muscles you have learned to use, take a few deep breaths, and walk at a normal pace to the bathroom.

By Kimberly Dewing and Leah Mergen

PA-C at Avera Medical Group Urogynecology

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