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Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): A How-To Guide

kegelThe following is a guest post from physical therapist, Barbara G. Green, P.T., M.S. I have mentioned the Kegel exercise a few times on 9 Kid Fitness, and one of the things that I have discovered after working with Barbara is how much of a difference these exercises can make in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. A sad fact is that stress incontinence (leaking urine) is one of the main reasons for admittance into nursing homes. What many people don’t realize is that we can be working on strengthening the pelvic floor long before serious problems arise. As Barbara likes to say, “A little bit goes a long way!”…

Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): A How-To Guide
By Barbara Green
In 1948 Arnold Kegel, M.D. developed exercises to increase the strength of the pelvic floor. These exercises can help prevent or control urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor problems.
Many factors can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, from pregnancy and childbirth to aging and being overweight.  

Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing Kegel exercises correctly.
It takes practice to identify your pelvic floor muscles and learn how to contract and relax them. Here are some pointers:

1. Find the right muscles! Try to contract the pelvic floor by imagining you are trying to stop the urine stream or prevent passing gas.  You should feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward and inward.  Then relax your muscles and feel your pelvic floor return to the starting position. You can also try to stop the flow of urine when you urinate. If you succeed, you’ve got the basic move. Don’t make a habit of starting and stopping your urine stream, though. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection in some people.

2. Perfect your technique. It is easiest to perform Kegel exercises lying down, with gravity eliminated.   Contract your pelvic floor muscles, holding the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for ten seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

3. Maintain your focus. For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to contract the muscles in your thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath.

4. Repeat three times a day. Perform at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

Performing Kegel exercises correctly is very difficult.  If you are having trouble doing the exercises, there is help. A physical therapist that specializes in the pelvic floor can give you guidance so that you can learn to identify and use the correct muscles.

In some cases, biofeedback training may help. During a biofeedback session, the physical therapist inserts a small monitoring probe into your vagina or places adhesive electrodes on the skin outside your vagina. When you contract your pelvic floor muscles, you’ll see a measurement on a monitor that lets you know whether you’ve successfully contracted the right muscles. You’ll also be able to see how long you hold the contraction.

Many people want to know how soon results should be expected. If you do your Kegel exercises faithfully, you can expect to see results — such as less frequent urine leakage — within about eight to 12 weeks. For some women, the improvement is dramatic. For others, Kegel exercises simply keep problems from getting any worse. That is very important, however, because weakened pelvic floor muscles can also result in fecal incontinence as well as urinary incontinence. For continued benefits, make Kegel exercises a permanent part of your daily routine.

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