Pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels) are used to strengthen or retrain the muscles of the pelvic floor, which support your uterus, bladder and rectum.
Kegel exercises are named after the American gynecologist who first realized the benefits to his patients. Contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles can help strengthen your pelvic floor and better control your bladder. Research shows that women who are trained in Kegel exercises get more benefits. A physical therapist can help walk you through the proper technique to ensure you are exercising the right muscles in the right way.
The American Urogynecologic Society recommends four to eight sets of 10 Kegels over the course of each day. Most Kegel exercises do not require equipment.
You might benefit from doing Kegel exercises if you:
- Leak a few drops of urine while sneezing, laughing, coughing or exercising
- Have to urinate too often (more than 7-8 times per day)
- Have a strong, sudden urge to urinate just before losing a large amount of urine
- Have difficulty controlling bowel movements.
Kegel exercises can be done anytime but should be done especially during pregnancy or after childbirth to prevent urinary incontinence.
How do you Kegel?
Here are some tips used in physical therapy:
- Find the muscles you use to stop urinating. The easiest way is to stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you’ve got the right muscles.
- Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and lay on your back. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it a few times. Gradually add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds each time. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- Tighten only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks.
- Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
- Repeat 3 times a day.Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day. Kegels work best when done on a regular schedule.
- Don’t do Kegels while you urinate. Doing them during urination can hurt your bladder in the long term.
- If you are unsuccessful doing Kegel exercises yourself, your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist trained in pelvic floor rehabilitation. This includes evaluating your back and abdominal strength, your gait, posture and flexibility– all of which affect how your pelvic muscles work. They may combine Kegel exercises with biofeedback. This lets you see, feel, or hear when an exercise is being done correctly.
Visit Baptist Rehabilitation Services to learn more about physical therapy services. Call 904.202.CARE if we can help you with a physician referral or to connect with a Baptist Primary Care office in your area, or call 904.202.GOOD to talk to a nurse coach to help you find the right specialist.