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What is a Kegel and Should You be Doing Them?

By Dr. Brooke Meinema PT, DPT, FAFS

One of the only exercises people think of to help with leaking, prolapse, or postpartum recovery is the kegel exercise. This is a pelvic floor muscle contraction working to strengthen the pelvic floor.

How do I know if I am doing them correctly? It can be difficult and sometimes a bit awkward to perform a kegel, but studies have shown most women are able to perform this exercise without formal instruction. The goal for this exercise is to tighten (squeeze) the pelvic floor muscles together as well as lift the muscles up and in. Sometimes people think about “lifting a marble” up and into the vaginal canal. Understanding how the muscles of the pelvic floor are laid out, similar to a trampoline under the organs in the pelvis can sometimes help you to understand the “lift and squeeze” idea behind the kegel contraction. It should not feel as though you are pushing or bearing down. A physical therapist is able to assess this and cue you for proper performance if you are struggling to coordinate these muscles or are concerned you are doing this incorrectly.

Why should I do these? Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help with coordination, strength, and endurance, all of which can reduce some of the symptoms of common pelvic floor dysfunctions. Improving strength and endurance can help to reduce some of the heaviness from a prolapse (imagine those muscles are finally able to hold everything up and in!), reduce leaking, and help to regain strength after pregnancy and delivery. Sounds like a dream, right?!

Who shouldn’t do kegels? While this can be helpful for a myriad of issues, there are times when these exercises are not always needed or encouraged. If you are experiencing pelvic floor muscle spasms or tension, if you have painful bladder syndrome (also known as interstitial cystitis), or if kegels seem to make your symptoms worse, then don’t do them.

While these can be helpful for some people, they are not likely to cure every pelvic floor issue out there. If you aren’t seeing success, don’t let it get you down; there is a whole world of other exercises at our disposal to address pelvic floor issues! Keep in mind kegels are just one tool in the toolbox. If you have tried kegels without success, it may be time to look for other solutions. Pelvic floor physical therapy may be able to help.

Do I need a kegel trainer? There are units out there to help you measure the strength and endurance of your pelvic floor muscles. Some people may find these helpful as they are able to give them immediate feedback without needing to be seen by a therapist or other provider to measure their strength, endurance, and rest time. Some of the brands that I have had good reports back on are the “elvie pelvic floor trainer” and “perifit” (use discount code brookemeinema for 15% off). These are not always needed or necessary, but they can sometimes be a good place to start or something that can be used to track your progress. (Please note, this is not an advertisement for these products, they are just 2 products I am familiar with. There may be others on the market available as well).

Overall, kegels are something that can be helpful for some, but not always needed for others. There are ways for you to improve your symptoms, and, for some, this can be a place to start. If you feel you need more help beyond kegels, there is always more you can do to address your individual needs. Advocate for yourself! Don’t just accept the run-on-the-mill treatments if they aren’t working for your needs. Let’s get you reaching your goals and moving on from pelvic floor limitations!

For a free 10-minute consultation, visit us at https://imovedaily.com/womens-health/ and fill out the form to contact a Women’s Health Physical Therapist and schedule your consultation.

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551249/

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