How and why you need to do Kegels

As a woman, you’ve probably heard that you should be doing Kegel exercises daily. When you do Kegels, you contract and then relax the pelvic floor muscles. Here’s why you need to do Kegels, and how to do them.

What are Kegel exercises?

There are a series of muscles between your hips that form a sling at the bottom of your pelvis. This sling of muscle and tissue helps to hold your organs in place. When these muscles are weakened, you might have problems controlling your bowels or bladder. Kegel exercises can help you strengthen this area. Kegels involve clenching and releasing these muscles. You can do Kegels anytime. While at work or even at the grocery store.

Why is it important to have good pelvic floor health?

Your pelvic floor muscles do much more than you might realize. Here are some ways your pelvic floor helps contribute to your daily function.

  • Your pelvic floor supports the abdominal organs (stomach, intestines, liver, uterus/womb, bladder) and prevents prolapse which is when pelvic organs are displaced and fall out of normal position.
  • Keeps you dry and clean by maintaining urinary and fecal continence.
  • Maintains sexual function. Women need flexibility for penetration, men and women need enough strength to orgasm.
  • Facilitates good posture and spinal stability.
  • Helps maintain circulation for your digestive system.
  • Ushers babies into the world.

What are the signs of pelvic floor dysfunction?

  • Incontinence or leaking urine, gas, or feces
  • Pain during or after intercourse
  • Excessive and chronic menstrual symptoms
  • Chronic pain in the low back, pelvis, or hip
  • Discomfort with wiping or riding a bike
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty or inability to have an orgasm

What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?

  • Your pelvic floor muscles can be affected by many things.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth put a lot of pressure and strain on your pelvic floor. 
  • Gaining weight will strain your pelvic floor.
  • Aging can also cause your muscles in that area to become weak.
  • Surgery on the pelvic area such as a hysterectomy or C-section.
  • Chronic coughing
  • Genetics

Benefits of Kegel exercises

Kegels don’t take a lot of time. Just a little bit of concentrated exercise daily. The main benefit of Kegel exercises is that they can help with incontinence issues. However, they can also help improve pregnancy symptoms and make childbirth easier, improve your digestion and core stability.  All functions of your pelvic floor will improve when your pelvic floor is strong, flexible, and coordinated.

How to do Kegels

Doing Kegels isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Here’s how to do Kegels:

  1. Identify the muscles you need to focus on for your exercise. The easiest way to do this is to stop urinating midstream. Those are the muscles you’ll work for your Kegel exercises. You only need to do this once or twice to help you find the right muscles. After that, try not to do Kegels while emptying your bladder. This can lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder and an increased risk of urinary tract infections.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. Imagine you’re sitting on a marble that you’re trying to lift up with your pelvic muscles. Pull the muscles upwards as you count to three. Then relax as you count to three. You might find this easier to do laying down, but after some practice you’ll be able to do it anytime and anywhere. This is a basic exercise, there are more ways to contract and relax the PF, see your PF PT for an individualized therapeutic exercise program that will help you and your specific concerns.
  3. Focus on your pelvic floor muscles. It’s tempting to flex your thighs, buttocks, or abdomen. But you really need to focus on your pelvic floor.
  4. Don’t hold your breath while doing Kegels.
  5. Make sure you relax your pelvic floor muscles completely. If you don’t, the kegeling can create more issues in your pelvic area.
  6. Make it part of your routine. You’ll stick with Kegels best when it is a part of your daily routine. Do them while getting ready for the day, on your bus ride home, waiting at stoplight, or while eating lunch at your desk at work.

When to seek help

If you’re unsure about how to properly do Kegels or not sure if they’re working, you can make an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Pelvic floor physical therapists are health care professionals trained in the conservative management and rehabilitation of pelvic floor muscle dysfunctions, such as, incontinence and pelvic pain disorders. See a pelvic floor physical therapist if you’re not clear on how to do a Kegel or how to properly relax your pelvic floor or if your symptoms of incontinence, sexual function, prolapse, or any pelvic floor dysfunctions aren’t improving.