Getting Kegel Exercises Right
For so long, health care providers and doctors have been telling women the PC muscle is the muscle they flex when they stop their urine flow mid-stream.
This may seem obvious to women with a healthy PC muscle, but it’s not to those who are already experiencing incontinence. These people may even think that their muscle no longer works and sign up for expensive surgery for leaky bladder. Yet often they can regain control of the PC muscle with the aid of biofeedback.
Dr. Kegel noticed that numerous women were not able to successfully identify and isolate the PC muscle. So he invented a vaginal sensor that shows women how to correctly do these exercises. Women reclined in a chair fully clothed, inserted the sensor, then were alerted by a monitor to the proper contraction and release of the PC muscle. From the start, Kegels were taught using biofeedback. A host of studies since then show that patients benefit far more from this approach than from verbal instruction alone.
How does a woman know if she really needs to do Kegel exercises? Experiencing incontinence is a clue that these muscles might be weakening and in need of immediate attention. Your health care provider may also prescribe Kegels if the patient has a prolapse of the bladder or even a bulge in the front wall of the rectum that protrudes into the vagina.
Physicians can also check the objective strength of pelvic floor muscles, their resilience, and resting tone with Pelvic Floor Sensory EMG, a non-invasive test.
Kegel exercises – The Proper Way
After a woman has located the PC muscle with the help of a nurse, midwife, pelvic floor therapist, or gynecologist, she can start with three simple Kegel exercises. Here are the directions:
Tighten the PC muscle for 10 seconds, and then relax it for 10 seconds. Stop after 10 repetitions. Do this routine three times spaced out over a 24-hour period.
If you can’t hold the contraction for 10 seconds, start out slowly with just 2 to 3 seconds doing only 3 to 5 contractions. The muscle will get stronger the more you do the exercise.
The second Kegel is called the “flutter.” Squeeze the same muscle, but this time, contract and relax it as quickly as you can. Do this 10 times at three different times during the day. Eventually, you will be able to achieve the “flutter” more rapidly.
The third exercise is subtle. Imagine that you are sucking a tampon up into your vagina. The goal should be to hold and release this contraction the same number of times as you did the first exercise.
You may not be able to hold any of these contractions for the entire 10 seconds; do as much as you can at first and build up gradually to 20-repetition sets.
Never hold your breath as you do these exercises. Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, concentrate on the contractions, pulling the pelvic floor muscle up and in. Scoop your naval toward the spine. Then inhale as you release.
The most important thing is to avoid bearing down as if you trying to expel a tampon from the vagina or were straining with a bowel movement. Also, make sure you are not contracting the buttocks or inner thighs.