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From Kegel Rookie to MVP

There has long been a buzz surrounding Kegel exercises but studies have shown that when done correctly, this non-surgical treatment method developed by the gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel can greatly benefit those suffering from Stress Urinary Incontinence or Overactive Bladder. Kegels can be performed in both women and men and help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle group providing greater bladder control which helps to prevent aggravating urine leakage and can enhance sexual satisfaction for both men and women. When implementing a Kegel Exercise Program, it is recommended that you complete at least two exercise sessions a day to strengthen and gain control over your pelvic floor muscles. This will help to prevent urine loss or decrease that “gotta go” feeling.

Pelvic Floor 101:

Spanning the bottom of your pelvis, the pelvic floor muscles sit like a hammock at the base of the pubic bone and extend to the tip of the coccyx, providing support for the pelvic organs such as the bladder and bowel in men and the bladder, bowel and uterus in women. So how do you find the right muscles to get your exercises started? The simplest way is to stop urination midstream (although this is only recommended to test the pelvic floor muscle group initially). Once you’ve successfully done this, you have correctly identified the pelvic floor muscles. When locating your pelvic floor, women will feel a slight pull in the rectum and vagina while men will feel a pull in the anus and see a movement in the penis. Every person is unique and different techniques work for different people.

Another great way to know if you have found your pelvic floor is to use the process of elimination by avoiding to exercise the wrong muscle. For example, to avoid using your stomach or abdominal muscles, rest your hand lightly on your belly as you squeeze, or activate, your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel your belly tightening or any stomach movement, you are using the wrong muscles. Relax, and try again until you no longer feel any movement in your stomach or your abdomen.

Similarly, if you realize you are holding breath while trying to squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, you are probably using your chest muscles. Relax completely and notice how you are breathing for a few moments. Then, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles while you continue to breathe normally. This will assure that you are not using your chest muscles because chest muscles are usually relaxed when you breathe.

The other set of “wrong muscles” that can cause confusion in locating your pelvic floor muscles are the buttock muscles. To see whether or not you are using your buttocks by mistake, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles while sitting in front of a mirror. If your body moves up and down slightly while attempting to engage your pelvic floor group, you are also using your buttock muscles. Once you have located and isolated your pelvic floor muscles and are able to squeeze them without using your abdominal or buttock muscles, you are ready to begin your daily exercise program.

Sample Exercise Program:

As mentioned earlier, it is recommended that you complete at least two exercises sessions a day for optimum results. Each exercise consists of squeezing, and then relaxing, your pelvic floor muscles. While most people do not take time to relax between squeezes, it is important to allow the muscles to relax completely before begin to tighten and engage your pelvic floor muscles again. Generally, it is common to perform one exercise set in the morning when you get up and one at night before bed resulting in two sessions of thirty “exercises” each. Remember, each squeeze and relaxation counts as one exercise.

Here is a sample exercise regimen to practice while lying down, sitting up and standing.

Integrating Kegels Into Your Everyday:

Once you have mastered working out your pelvic floor, you can integrate Kegels into your daily lifestyle. After six weeks of practice, the exercises will require less effort and you will no longer need to set aside special times to concentrate on them (unless you want to). Tighten your muscles when you walk, before you cough or sneeze, as you stand up, and on your way to the bathroom. Or try them during the following:

Before you know it, these exercises will become a healthy habit making you the Kegel MVP, even though they take time in the beginning to achieve. If you need help locating your pelvic floor muscles or would like additional treatment options for Stress Urinary Incontinence, Overactive Bladder or increased sexual health and performance, speak to your health care provider.

Lauren Rogers

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