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Medical Encyclopedia Kegel Exercises

Alternative names

Pelvic muscle strengthening exercises; Pelvic floor exercises

Definition

Kegel exercises are a series of pelvic muscle exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor.

Information

Dr. Arnold Kegel developed Kegel exercises in 1948 as a method of controlling incontinence in women after childbirth. These exercises are now recommended for:

  • Women with urinary stress incontinence
  • Some men who have urinary incontinence after prostate surgery
  • People who have fecal incontinence

Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor to improve urethral and rectal sphincter function. The success of Kegel exercises depends on proper technique and sticking to a regular exercise program.

Some people have trouble finding and isolating the muscles of the pelvic floor. It’s important to learn how to tighten (contract) the correct muscles. Most people contract the abdominal or thigh muscles, and don’t work the pelvic floor muscles. These incorrect contractions can worsen pelvic floor tone and incontinence.

Several techniques can help you find the right muscles. One approach is to sit on the toilet and start to urinate. Try to stop the flow of urine midstream by tightening your pelvic floor muscles. Repeat this action several times until you learn the feel of contracting the right group of muscles. Do not contract your abdominal, thigh, or buttocks muscles while doing the exercise.

Another approach to help you find the correct muscle group is to insert a finger into the vagina (in women), or rectum (in men). Try to tighten the muscles around your finger as if holding back urine. The abdominal and thigh muscles should stay relaxed.

A woman can also strengthen these muscles by using a vaginal cone, which is a weighted device that is inserted into the vagina. Then try to contract the pelvic floor muscles to hold the device in place.

If you are unsure whether you are doing the Kegel correctly, you can use biofeedback and electrical stimulation to help find the correct muscle group to work.

Biofeedback is a method of positive reinforcement. Electrodes are placed on the abdomen and along the anal area. Some therapists place a sensor in the vagina in women or anus in men, to monitor the contraction of pelvic floor muscles.

A monitor will display a graph showing which muscles are contracting and which are at rest. The therapist can help find the right muscles for performing Kegel exercises.

Electrical stimulation involves using low-voltage electric current to stimulate the correct group of muscles. The current may be delivered using an anal or vaginal probe. The electrical stimulation therapy can be done in the clinic or at home.

Treatment sessions usually last 20 minutes and may be done every 1 – 4 days. Some studies have shown that electrical stimulation might help in treating stress and urge incontinence.

PERFORMING PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES:

1. Begin by emptying your bladder.

2. Tighten the pelvic floor muscles and hold for a count of 10.

3. Relax the muscle completely for a count of 10.

4. Do 10 exercises, 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, and night).

You can do these exercises at any time and any place. Most people prefer to do the exercises while lying down or sitting in a chair. After 4 – 6 weeks, most people notice some improvement. It may take as long as 3 months to see a major change.

A word of caution: Some people feel that they can speed up the progress by increasing the number of repetitions and the frequency of exercises. However, overexercising can instead cause muscle fatigue and increase urine leakage.

If you feel any discomfort in your abdomen or back while doing these exercises, you are probably doing them wrong. Some people hold their breath or tighten their chest while trying to contract the pelvic floor muscles. Relax and concentrate on contracting just the pelvic floor muscles.

When done the right way, Kegel exercises have been shown very effective for improving urinary continence.

References

Holroyd-Leduc JM, Tannenbaum C, Thorpe KE, Straus SE. What type of urinary incontinence does this woman have? JAMA. 2008;299:1446-1456.

Rogers RG. Clinical practice. Urinary stress incontinence in women. N Engl J Med. 2008;358:1029-1036.

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    Disclaimer: The results may vary based on how serious you are to improve your pelvic floor. You have to do kegel exercises regularly in order to see any improvement.

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    Kegelmaster Instructions

    Make sure you lubricate the vaginal area with a water soluble natural lubricant and lubricate the Kegelmaster at the tip. Place the Kegelmaster between your thighs, insert the unit into your vaginal opening until it is firmly in place. You will notice this when the Kegelmaster feels much smaller and locks into place.

    Grasp your Kegelmaster firmly, you are now ready for your initial adjustment!! This is done by turning the knob at the top of the Kegelmaster counterclockwise - until the knob is no longer touching the top of the Kegelmaster and until you feel a slight pressure. This should not be uncomfortable.

    NOTE: If the knob is at the top of the Kegelmaster and you don't feel any pressure from the Kegelmaster putting resistance against the vaginal muscles, then you will have to add another spring. If you have the right tension, squeeze down against the Kegelmaster. If you are easily able to clamp down with your vaginal muscles completely for thirty reps (closings), remove the unit from your vagina and change the position of the spring, moving forward one pin (see Power Spring Combinations). If you are still able to easily close down all the way, for thirty reps - after insertion, then you must move the single spring back to the rear pin (1) and add a spring to the next forward pin (2), then repeat the process.

    Power Spring Combinations:

    1,2,3,4, 1*2, 1*3, 1*4, 2*4, 3*4, 1*2*3, 1*2*4, 1*3*4, 2*3*4, 1*2*3*4

    The ideal spring tension is determined by one's ability to close the Kegelmaster at the beginning of the exercise and become unable to close it completely at the end of 30 reps. This is not hard to do and it is a lot of fun to see how many of the springs you can squeeze for 30 reps, having difficulty with the last five. The exercise sequence starts with 3 sets of 30 reps daily. With each rep you attempt complete closure of the Kegelmaster, pausing in between each set of 30 reps for 3-5 seconds. It is recommended to work up to 6 sets of 30 reps a minimum of 3 times a week. An individual may do more sets, but it is not advisable to exceed 30 reps. A final fatigue of the muscle until the last rep is performed with very little vaginal movement is your goal. When you are finished, close the device before removing! Gently close the device, tighten the knob and slowly remove the Kegelmaster.

    Ideally, use the kegel exerciser twice a day, morning and evening. For women with prolapse, it is recommended to use the Kegelmaster in the morning to start with.

    For prolapse or any other medical condition, please consult your doctor before purchasing the Kegelmaster.

    The Kegelmaster is cleared and deemed effective by the FDA as a medical device for incontinence.

    We in no way intend to diagnose, treat or make any medical claims about the Kegelmaster.

    Cleaning the Kegelmaster is simple. Use an anti-bacterial cleaner after each use. Open device, remove springs, and use a small brush to reach all areas of the Kegelmaster. Dry and store for the next use.