How to perform a proper Kegel
Kegels are an exercise that you do to contract your pelvic floor muscles. The muscles in the base of your pelvis are collectively called the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor has a variety of functions such as helping stop the flow of urine or feces, sexual arousal, and supporting our pelvic organs. The pelvic floor is a vital part of the “core” helping to stabilize the spine. They attach to the pubic bone in front and cross your pelvis and attach to the tailbone like a hammock. We use different variations of Kegel exercises to strengthen these muscles. Everyone can benefit from a strong pelvic floor.
To isolate your pelvic floor muscles, contract the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine without contracting your butt, thighs, and abs. Pull up and in at the rectum as you would to avoid passing gas. If you can make your urine flow stop while the rest of your body remains still, you’ve found them. Do not do while on the toilet except to test to be sure you have the right muscles (do not test this more than 2 times per month). If you cannot stop your flow of urine, the muscles are weak. Remember to breathe (always), but especially during exercise.
There are two types of muscle fibers in your pelvic floor, fast twitch and slow twitch. We need to exercise both of these fiber types to increase strength. Perform Kegel contractions a few times throughout the day. Especially during functional activities such as when you move from sit to stand, when lifting, prior to coughing, and when walking up stairs.
How to do a Kegel
Imagine you are a crowded and room and you feel the need to pass gas. Pull up and in as you would to avoid passing gas or stopping the flow of urine. During the contraction, isolate the pelvic floor muscles. No one should know you are doing this. There is no movement other than the pull up of the pelvic floor. Avoid contracting muscles in the legs or abdominal area. Using your breathing can help with the contraction. Your strength would determine the length of hold and number of repetitions and sets. These muscles are small and sometimes difficult to feel. You can put a finger in your vagina or rectum to be sure you are isolating the correct muscles. Sitting and focusing on doing them correctly at first will be helpful to start adding them in to other activities during your day.
To exercise Fast Twitch Fibers do Quick Flicks: While breathing out squeeze your pelvic floor muscles up and in for about 1 second then relax as you breathe in. Repeat 10 times 2-3 times per day.
To exercise Slow Twitch Fibers we hold: While breathing out squeeze your pelvic floor muscles up and in and hold for 5-10 seconds and then as you breathe out relax for twice as long. Repeat 5-10 times 1-2 times per day.
Times to do Kegels: while driving; in an elevator or on an escalator; in line at the grocery store; as you brush your teeth; waiting for your food to be done in the microwave; during commercials; during meetings; when you get into bed before sleep. The good thing about these exercises is that they can be done in any position at any time!
Benefits to strengthening your pelvic floor
· Stop leaking urine
· Stronger orgasm
· Prevent prolapse
· Improve core strength
When to see a pelvic health therapist
If you cannot tell if you are doing a proper Kegel, a pelvic health therapist will help you and give you a customized plan. Often patients who have tried Kegels on their own and it has not helped are not doing them properly. If you are doing them properly sometimes there are other issues that a pelvic PT can help with. If you have pain with vaginal penetration, are leaking urine or feces, have constipation, experience abdominal pain or have been diagnosed with organ prolapse, a pelvic health physical therapist can help! At DPT we specialize in pelvic health issues. Don’t hesitate to contact us!