First Off… What the heck is a Kegel?

A Kegel is an exercise that can be used to help strengthen and build endurance of the pelvic floor muscles. There are different ways Kegels can be performed depending on what your focus is (i.e., coordination of pelvic floor and diaphragm, motor control, strength, endurance, etc.). Depending on your goal, this will likely impact the type of contraction you will need to perform, including how long you hold the contraction and how many sets and repetitions you need to perform.

 

Secondly… Should I be doing Kegels?

Often, people are told to perform Kegels as a solution to address a variety of pelvic floor-related issues including urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic pain, and more. Performing Kegels can be helpful for many individuals but not necessarily everyone. It is important to understand what exactly is causing your symptoms to gain a better understanding on whether or not Kegels are appropriate in your case.

Let’s use urinary incontinence as an example. For individuals with urinary incontinence due to pelvic floor weakness, Kegels can be a great exercise to build pelvic floor strength to reduce leakage and allow the person to be able to get to the toilet on time. However, urinary incontinence can also be caused by pelvic floor tightness. In this case, it is going to be crucial to learn how to relax the pelvic floor rather than continuing to tighten it with lots of Kegels, as this may make your symptoms worse. So, if you are experiencing urinary incontinence, how do you know what’s causing your incontinence? Are the pelvic floor muscles weak or are they tight? This is where an evaluation by a pelvic floor physical therapist can be helpful to assess your pelvic floor needs and provide you with individualized recommendations.

 

Lastly… How do you perform a Kegel?

Once it has been determined that Kegels are appropriate for you, the next challenge is making sure you are performing them correctly. A great way to help you mentally visualize a Kegel is to think of your pelvic floor as an elevator. When your pelvic floor is relaxed you are at the ground level. As you initiate a Kegel, you should be contracting your pelvic floor muscles in a way that draws the muscles inward and upward, visualizing the elevator moving from the ground level up to the highest floor in the building. Once you have reached a maximum contraction, you should then begin to slowly relax the pelvic floor back to its resting position, visualizing the elevator moving back down to the ground level.

 

If you are experiencing symptoms such as incontinence or pelvic pain and aren’t sure if Kegels are right for you, reach out to us at Dee PT to schedule an evaluation with one of our pelvic floor physical therapists! Also, check out our blog post on Urinary Incontinence for more information before you get started.

 

Written by: Erika Breseman, PT, DPT