The aim of Kegel exercises is to fortify muscle tone by strengthening the pubococcygeus muscles of the pelvic floor. Kegel is a popular prescribed exercise for pregnant women to prepare the pelvic floor for physiological stresses of the later stages of pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. Kegels exercises are said to be good for treating vaginal prolapse and preventing uterine prolapse in women; and for treating prostate pain and swelling resulting from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis in men. Kegel exercises may be beneficial in treating urinary incontinence in both men and women. Kegels exercises may also increase sexual gratification.
Kegel exercises are also known as pelvic floor exercises, or simply Kegels.
Benefits for women
Factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging and being overweight often result in the weakening of the pelvic muscles. Kegel exercises are useful in regaining pelvic floor muscle strength in such cases.
The consequences of weakened pelvic floor muscles may include urinary or bowel incontinence, which may be helped by therapeutic strengthening of these muscles. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that “PFMT [Pelvic floor muscle training] be included in first-line conservative management programmes for women with stress, urge, or mixed, urinary incontinence…The treatment effect might be greater in younger women (in their 40′s and 50′s) with stress urinary incontinence alone…”.
The exercises are also often used to help prevent prolapse of pelvic organs. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that “there is some encouragement from a feasibility study that pelvic floor muscle training, delivered by a physiotherapist to symptomatic women in an outpatient setting, may reduce severity of prolapse”.
Regular Kegel exercise can also increase sexual pleasure for the woman and her male partner. It is said that such exercises make the vagina tighter. Also, after childbirth, practicing pelvic floor contractions during vaginal sex will allow the woman immediate feedback from her partner, who can tell her whether they can feel her muscles tightening. A newly postpartum woman – who has yet to return to sexual intercourse – can retrain her pelvic floor muscles to their pre-pregnancy strength and tone by inserting two or three fingers, or a dildo into her vagina and squeezing them with pelvic floor contractions.
Benefits for men
Though most commonly used by women, men can also use Kegel exercises. They are used to strengthen the pubococcygeal muscle and other muscles of the pelvic diaphragm. Kegels can help men achieve stronger erections and gain greater control over ejaculation. The object of this may be similar to that of the exercise in women with weakened pelvic floor, i.e. to increase bladder and bowel control and sexual function.
Regarding postprostatectomy urinary incontinence, a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials by the Cochrane Collaboration found that “there may be some benefit of offering pelvic floor muscle training with biofeedback early in the postoperative period immediately following removal of the catheter as it may promote an earlier return to continence”.
There are said to be significant benefits for the problem of premature ejaculation from having more muscular control of the pelvis. It is also possible that strengthening the pelvic floor may allow some men to achieve a form of orgasm without allowing ejaculation, and thereby perhaps reach multiple ‘climaxes’ during sexual activity. In men this exercise lifts up the testicles, also strengthening the cremaster muscle as well as the anal sphincter, as the anus is the main area contracted when a Kegel is done. This is because the pubococcygeus muscle begins around the anus and runs up to the urinary sphincter. Men should be patient when they begin Kegel exercises as it may take 4 to 6 weeks to see a substantial difference. Women are able to add resistance to the exercise through isometrically gripping a hard object (such as a Kegel exerciser), or by compressing an object such as foam, but there are no techniques that would be as effective at adding resistance to male Kegel exercises.
A popular way to identify the pelvic muscles in men and woman is to stop the flow of urine midstream. This is accomplished by contracting the pelvic floor muscles. Restarting the flow of urine is accomplished by releasing the pelvic floor muscles. Once identified this way, the pelvic floor muscles can be contracted and released independently of controlling urination. Kegels are most frequently performed in sets. Here are a few techniques:
* Quick pumps – do 15 reps of quick pumps, pause for 30 seconds and repeat. Start at 15 and work your way up to 100 reps two times a day.
* Hold and release – contract the muscle slowly and hold for 5 seconds, release slowly. Work your way to at least 25 reps two times a day.
* Elevator – slowly contract 1/3 of the way, pause, then 2/3 of the way, pause, then all the way. Do 10 reps two times a day.
Tags: Kegel Exercise