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Top gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Arnold Kegel (1894–1981) noticed the prevalence of incontinence in his patients after the stress placed on the pelvic muscles during pregnancy and childbirth. Women were struggling with deteriorating quality of life, as they tried to manage the unexpected release of urine. Many stopped participating in their usual activities, fearful that they would have an accident. Others began wearing menstrual pads and adult diapers regularly, but complained of the discomfort and inconvenience. Some turned to medication and surgery, which was not always effective. Side effects and recovery time dissuaded sufferers from seeking treatment.
Dr. Kegel suggested that strengthening the pelvic muscles by exercising them could improve their function, in a similar manner to other forms of physical therapy. In 1948, when he was Assistant Professor of Gynecology at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, he first began to share his ideas with a wider audience. This led to extensive use of what is now known as Kegel exercises, which are the number one recommended treatment for urinary stress incontinence and female genital prolapse. Research has since proven their effectiveness, and millions of men and women have seen the benefits.
The pelvic muscles, found in a hammock-like structure between the urinary and anal sphincters, are responsible for keeping the pelvic organs where they belong. When they weaken, the first sign is involuntary leakage of urine, also known as urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises are designed to bring strength and tone back to the muscle group, which in turn reduces or eliminates the symptoms of urinary incontinence.
You can locate the appropriate muscles by stopping and starting your urine stream when visiting the restroom. The ease with which you can do this is an indication of how strong your muscles are now.
Kegels – What are they?
The squeezing and releasing of pelvic muscles, similar to the movements that start and stop urine flow, are referred to Kegel exercises when they are deliberately undertaken in regular repetitive sets. They have been proven to strengthen and tone the muscles that hold the excretory and reproductive organs in place.
How can Kegels benefit me?
When the pelvic muscles become weak, due to a variety of reasons such as disease, pregnancy and childbirth, decreasing levels of estrogen as we age, and excessive weight, many begin to experience issues with urine loss. Regular and correct completion of Kegel exercises, particularly done with resistance, can provide strength to the muscles that is sufficient to resume normal control of urine. Other benefits can include easier vaginal childbirth, and many suggest strong pelvic muscles contribute to a more satisfying sex life.
How do I do Kegels?
Research shows that more than a 30% of women clench the wrong muscles when they first try to do Kegel exercises. This limits or eliminates the benefits altogether. Physicians are helpful in assisting you to with locating the right muscles and performing the exercises correctly. Alternatively, many women learn to locate the pelvic muscles on their own through noting the action needed to stop and start their urine flow. Another option is to place your finger in the vagina, then constrict the muscles around it. You will know you are doing the exercises the right way when there is pressure on your finger.
It is very common to feel awkward or uncomfortable when beginning pelvic floor exercise regimen. You can find more success if you try to keep your body relaxed, except the specific muscles you are focusing on. If it helps, you can begin lying down or sitting with your knees together.
How frequently should I do Kegels?
Once you are confident that you are completing the Kegels correctly, we recommend exercising for approximately five minutes at a time, two times per day. Squeeze the Kegel region for a slow count of four, before relaxing for a slow count of four. Don’t be concerned if you can’t continue for a full five minutes at first. This is normal. As you practice, you will find that the exercises are easier, because the muscles are getting stronger.
When will I see a change?
Most women begin to notice a change in unexpected loss of urine after six to twelve weeks of regular exercise. Remember, consistency with resistance is key to seeing results, and the more you practice, the sooner you could have improvement in stress incontinence.
Where and when should I do my Kegels?
We have studied a variety of programs and methods to determine how best to decrease incontinence issues. Our results show that two five-minute sessions per day are most effective for the majority of women. Many of our clients tell us that spending five minutes when they get up and five minutes before bed is an easy and convenient way to fit it in without forgetting.
Once the Kegel Exercises are too easy for me, how can I challenge myself?
You can give yourself additional challenge and greater strength by doubling the time that you hold the muscles in a clenched position. Instead of counting to four, try counting to eight. Continue to use our resistance exerciser the VagaCare Vaginal Weights, and follow the instructions for increasing weight to give yourself more of a challenge.
When can I stop doing Kegels?
If you have reached your goal with regard to your stress incontinence and unexpected urine loss, you can cut down to three times a week. However, it is not recommended that you stop the exercises altogether, and if problems reoccur, resume the program at your original frequency of two five minute sessions every day.