Pelvic Floor Exercises
The most natural way of controlling urinary and faecal incontinence is through kegel exercises. The pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, uterus, rectum, and small intestine were first described as kegel muscles by Dr Arnold Kegel in 1948, a gynecologist who invented this non-surgical treatment and exercises for genital relaxation.
Kegel exercises can be performed discreetly at just about anytime. Pelvic floor problems including urine and faecal incontinence can improve by incorporating kegel exercises into your daily routine. Both men and women that perform kegel exercises can help with incontinence regardless of the cause or age. Kegel exercises are performed by contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, which creates strength to support and hold the bladder.
Finding the Right Muscles:
It’s important to find the right pelvic muscles before doing kegel exercises. The best way to find your kegel muscles is to try and stop the flow of urine mid-stream and once this has been performed you will know where the muscles groups are located. One of the most basic kegel exercises is this tightening move. After holding these groups of muscles you can let the muscles go and continue with the flow of urine giving you the complete sense of the pelvic floor muscles. Just remember that doing kegel exercises while urinating is not the correct routine for the exercise and if performed as a routine it can actually have the opposite effect weakening the muscles. This exercise is purely for finding the right muscle group.
Ensure your bladder is empty before performing these exercises. Lie on your back on the floor and tighten your pelvic floor muscles (by pulling in and squeezing the muscles) hold onto this tightening contraction for 5 seconds then release and relax for 5 seconds. This should be performed 4 or 5 times in a row. This is a gradual process and should be built up over time. Build up to holding the muscles for 10 seconds at a time and then relaxing for 10 seconds at a time. Try to perform these exercises three or four times a day, starting with five then building to ten sets of contractions each time.
It’s important to focus on the muscles you are tightening and avoid flexing other muscles such as your thighs, buttocks or abdomen. Imagine you are holding urine and wind at the same time. Your tummy muscles will tighten inside. Squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis as you breathe and remember that nothing above your belly button should tighten or tense. Tensing and flattening of the lower part of the abdominal wall will happen and it is fine for this to happen as this part of the tummy works together with the pelvic floor muscles.
Don’t hold your breathe in during the kegel exercises. Breathing in and out in a controlled manor as you perform each set of kegel exercise is very important. Concentrating on your breathe rather than the pelvic floor muscles will help you to relax and get the most out of your exercises.
You can place one hand on your belly to make sure your belly is relaxed and if for any reason you have signs of a back or stomach ache after you complete a set of kegel exercises, this is your body indicating that you are not performing them correctly.
When squeezing and tightening your muscles really gently you should feel the pelvic floor muscles lifting up and squeezing in. You may need to change your position if you cannot feel them by lying down, standing up or in a seated position.
Ensure you are comfortable while performing these exercises. Kegel exercises can be performed while sitting in a chair or lying on the floor. Ensure your stomach muscles and buttock are relaxed before starting. When performing the exercises lying down you should be flat on your back with your arms at your sides and knees bent up and together with feet flat on the floor. Your head should be kept down to avoid straining of the neck.
It’s important after a contraction to relax the muscles for the same amount of time. Your muscles need to recover from the previous contraction and prepare for the next contraction.
Performing kegel exercises on a regular basis will have the most effect. You also need to make this part of your daily routine. Three or four times a day should be achievable as the sessions won’t last very long. Try not to worry about fitting them into your busy schedule and performing them like clockwork, every morning, lunch time, afternoon and evening. The best thing to remember is that they can be done anytime without anyone knowing.
Focusing hard, lying down and isolating your kegels should be important for beginners however once you have mastered the technique they can be performed at anytime anywhere.
Why not make it apart of your daily routine activities such as making breakfast, checking your emails, driving in the car, sitting at your desk, or reading a book. You could even set a reminder in your phone that pops up during the day to remind you to do the exercises. Note: This can be done discretely and you can name it something else that no one would know like “time to smile”.
Another option is to keep a diary log where you can record the amount of sessions and time of day the exercises were performed so you don’t forget. Once performed daily with your routines it will naturally become a habit and you won’t need to set your reminders anymore.
Once you have performed these exercises regularly for a few weeks you can also attempt to do a single pelvic floor contraction at times when you normally would leak for example this could be when you get out of bed or up out of a chair. This squeezing and holding will eventually help you control or stop the leakage.
Relax and make the exercises more enjoyable by putting on your favourite music. Listening to your favourite music is a great way to calm the mind so you can concentrate on your breathing and completely relax.
If you are keeping a calendar or diary entry to record your exercises ensure you tick the page or put a star next to your completed sessions as this is a reward to yourself and it will keep you motivated to stay on track each day.
When life gets busy and you forget to perform the exercises daily don’t discourage yourself with negative thoughts, just start performing them again straight away. Remember to always keep a positive attitude, as this in itself will help you improve the results a lot faster.
Always remember that this is an ongoing exercise and regular practice is very important.
Performing kegel exercises for men are virtually the same practice as for women. The best way to locate these muscle groups is to attempt to stop or slow down the flow of urine halfway through urination. Remember to be careful not to tense other muscles including your buttocks, legs or abdomen. Take care to breathe slowly in and out and don’t hold your breathe. You have successfully found these muscles when you have stopped or slowed the flow of urine.
For some men it’s easier to imagine that you are trying to stop the passing of gas. The muscles being squeezed give you the right sensation for the pelvic floor exercises.
Just remember once you have found the muscles it’s important not to do this while urinating frequently as this can cause further damage. This exercise is to purely show you where the muscle groups are.
When starting out it may be easier for you to perform the exercises while lying down to ensure your muscles aren’t fighting against gravity. This will also help you to relax.
Common Facts surrounding your pelvic floor muscles and exercises:
- All women and men can benefit from doing pelvic floor muscle exercises.
- Women who haven’t had a baby can still benefit from the training as some women develop incontinence during pregnancy and this can be avoided or significantly reduced.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises performed during pregnancy will help with the recovery after giving birth to restore the bladder control and pelvic floor muscle function. Strong pelvic floor muscles will not make the birth more difficult as proven by new research.
- Postnatal pelvic floor muscle exercises have been proven to assist in reducing or curing incontinence and improving the pelvic floor muscle function.
- Men, who perform pelvic floor muscle exercises, will be helped to control the bladder and bowel along with their sexual function.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises can be performed by anyone at any age. Supporting evidence shows that older people will benefit just as much as younger people to reduce and even cure incontinence.
- Some people find it hard to locate the correct muscles. Talk to your doctor, health care professional or physiotherapist who specialise in continence to assist you.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective for stress incontinence, urge incontinence or an overactive bladder and faecal incontinence.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises will not work if you are experiencing other types of urine or bowel motion leakage (for example infection, inflammation or underlying bowel disease). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s best to consult with your doctor first.
- Research has been proven that pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective when performed correctly.
When will I see results?
Any groups of muscles being exercised take time to develop and strengthen. The process won’t dramatically change overnight as you need to work the muscles continually each day to get results. You can expect to see results three to six weeks after you started performing the kegel muscles each day.
Try not to get disheartened or upset by the fact that you think the muscles aren’t strengthening at first, just remember that it does take time. Stick with it and you should see results.
In some cases it can take up to 3 months to see a major change and these results can be dramatic so it’s important to remember that you must keep doing the kegel exercises and they should be done daily even after signs of improvement.
Throughout the process it’s a good idea to keep a diary recording of your urine leakage each day, as you progress you will be able to noticeably see results and improvements.
Should I consult with my doctor?
It’s always best to talk to your doctor or health care professional when doing kegel exercises to ensure you are doing them correctly. Talking to your doctor can help identify and isolate the correct muscles to perform the exercises.
After performing kegel exercises for a few months, if you feel that results haven’t improved then it’s important that you seek help from your doctor.
Naturally you will want to speed up the process however you should know that this should not be attempted. People will tend to speed up the process by increasing the number of repetitions and the frequency of the exercises too fast.
By working the muscles too quickly you can actually cause muscle fatigue that can increase urine leakage.
Take your time doing the exercises properly and take the time to build up at a steady rate that works for you.
It’s important to breathe deeply and relax your body when performing kegel exercises. Ensure you aren’t tightening your stomach, thighs, chest muscles or buttock. If for any reason you feel pain or discomfort in your abdomen or back while performing these exercises you should stop immediately as you are doing them incorrectly.
Pelvic floor muscles that have been exercised in the right way have been proven to be very effective at improving the signs of incontinence. In some cases incontinence has been eliminated altogether and it has also prevented the need for some surgeries.
Kegel exercises will strengthen your core muscles that will help to improve your posture and give you a firmer stomach that creates more movement and control.
The best part about doing kegel exercises is they are painless and it won’t cost you a thing to perform daily. A free exercise for everyone who wants to get involved and to improve their own health and vitality.
Exercises to keep fit:
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime is vital in maintaining and curing incontinence. It is recommended that you participate in low impact classes and exercises. Recommended exercises include walking, cycling (sitting down), swimming, low intensity water aerobics, walking in water and low resistance cross training.
Exercises to avoid:
Exercising is important however if your pelvic floor muscle functions have been compromised then it is best to avoid high impact exercises that increase the risk of further complications or prolonged incontinence. It is recommended that you do not participate in running, jumping, skipping, boxing or star jumps.
Avoid high impact exercises that include jumping or running, including sports that involve rapid direction change and stop-start running e.g netball, basketball, tennis, hockey and touch football.
Slow or Quick Pelvic Floor Exercises?
There are different types of pelvic floor exercises: the quick pelvic floor exercises and the slow pelvic floor exercises.
Every pelvic floor muscle squeezed needs to be done as strongly as you possibly can. This is called a maximal squeeze and it is the ONLY way that muscle strength can be improved. In performing these quick exercises, the pelvic floor muscles are rapidly tightened and relaxed.
During the slow exercises, the muscles are tightened for 6 seconds and then relaxed for 6 seconds.
Try to complete six maximal slow squeezes, three times a day as well as six fast squeezes. Pelvic floor exercises may be done with other activities such as watching television, ironing, or relaxing.
As it may take several weeks to notice an improvement, it is important that you continue doing these exercises. Regular periodic follow-ups with your doctor or health care professional will help you assess the benefits of these exercises as well as provide the opportunity to review your pelvic floor exercises technique.
If your symptoms do not improve ask your doctor, health care professional, nurse, or therapist to help you.
Many individuals need a health care provider’s help to identify the correct muscles to use and help them tailor an exercise program to suit each individual.
Pelvic floor exercises are the most important muscle group to be training for people with incontinence as they strengthen the muscles located around the bladder opening which help to reduce and relieve the symptoms of stress incontinence by almost 50% and assist in the management of urge incontinence as well. To find out what type of incontinence you might be dealing with visit the Holistic types of incontinence and speak with your doctor or health care professional.
It is well worth the effort as studies show that pelvic floor exercises can cure stress urinary incontinence in two thirds of women.