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If you’re experiencing bladder control problems, you may have been told to “do your kegels” without getting any explanation on how to do them or exactly what they are.
Kegels are exercises that help strengthen the pelvic floor, which supports the bladder and bowel. If the pelvic floor is damaged or weakened, you might start experiencing fecal or urinary incontinence. Men might dribble after urination, while women may leak a little when sneezing or coughing. Common reasons why people may experience such urinary control problems include childbirth, menopause, heavy lifting, medication, constipation or prostate surgery.
So where did the term “kegels” come from?
In 1948, Dr. Arnold Kegel, an American gynecologist, published an article describing a non-surgical method of toning the pelvic floor in order to help women control incontinence following childbirth. He explained that by exercising the pubococcygeus muscles (PC muscles) of the pelvic floor, women can reduce their likelihood of experiencing bladder problems after pregnancy and birth.
Today, pelvic floor exercises are regarded as the first line of treatment for stress incontinence, as recommended by the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE). And while people usually associate kegels with women, men can also benefit from these exercises. Another great thing about kegels is that they can improve sexual gratification for both men and women.
So how do you do kegels?
Kegels exercises involve repeatedly contracting and holding the PC muscles, which are located from the anus to the urinary sphincter. To find these muscles, try stopping the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you used to do this are your PC muscles.
Now, all you have to do is clench the kegel muscles, hold it in for several seconds, and then repeat for at least 15 minutes a day. Start by holding for five seconds and then increasing to 10 seconds as your muscles build up. Exercises are discreet and can be done anytime and anywhere. Many people choose to do them during the morning, afternoon, and night.
Those who have difficulty finding their kegel muscles or doing the exercises can get help from a doctor or pelvic floor therapist. Women can also use kegel exercisers, such as vaginal weights, as a guide.