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Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor issues are common, but they can be treated in different ways, one of which is pelvic floor exercises. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of pelvic floor issues, talk to your doctor. They can diagnose the problem and recommend the best treatment options.

As we age, it’s common for women to experience changes in their pelvic floor health. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that support the uterus, bladder, and rectum. When these muscles weaken or become damaged, it can lead to a variety of issues.

While this article focuses specifically on women, it is important to point out that both men and women can experience pelvic floor issues.

What is the Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that forms the bottom of the pelvis. It supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum. These muscles also play a vital role in sexual function and continence.

Causes of Pelvic Floor Issues

Pelvic floor issues can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Childbirth: the stress of childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. This can lead to incontinence, prolapse (dropping down) of the pelvic organs, and pain.
  • Aging: as women age, their pelvic floor muscles can naturally weaken. This can increase the risk of developing pelvic floor issues.
  • Menopause: the hormonal changes that occur during menopause can weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Surgery: pelvic surgeries, such as a hysterectomy, can damage the pelvic floor muscles or nerves.
  • Other factors: obesity, smoking, chronic coughing, and constipation can also contribute to pelvic floor issues.
woman performing a glute bridge to address pelvic floor issues

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor issues can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Incontinence (urinary or fecal)
  • Prolapse of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, or rectum)
  • Pain in the pelvis, lower back, or hips
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Painful intercourse

Treatment Options

There are several ways to mitigate pelvic floor issues, including:

  • Pelvic floor exercises: kegel exercises are a type of pelvic floor exercise that can help to strengthen the muscles. To do a Kegel exercise, squeeze the muscles of your vagina as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then relax for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. You can do Kegel exercises several times a day.
  • Biofeedback: biofeedback is a therapeutic technique that can help you to learn how to control your pelvic floor muscles. During biofeedback, a therapist will place a sensor on or inside your vagina. The sensor will measure the electrical activity of your muscles, and the therapist will use this information to help you to learn how to contract and relax your muscles correctly.
  • Electrical stimulation: electrical stimulation is a treatment that uses electrical pulses to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles. This treatment can help to strengthen the muscles and improve their function.
  • Surgery: surgery may be necessary to treat severe pelvic floor issues. Surgery can be used to repair prolapse, incontinence, and other problems.

What are Kegels?

Kegels are exercises that involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support the bladder, bowels, and reproductive organs. Performing Kegel exercises regularly can improve bladder control, prevent incontinence, and enhance sexual function in both men and women.

Benefits of Kegels

Kegel exercises offer several benefits to people of all genders:

  1. Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles: these muscles support vital organs and promote overall pelvic health.
  2. Improve Bladder Control: can help prevent or manage urinary incontinence. (This is especially helpful for women after childbirth.)
  3. Enhance Sexual Function: stronger pelvic floor muscles can lead to more pleasurable and satisfying sexual experiences.
  4. Recover from Childbirth: can help restore the strength of the pelvic floor after childbirth.
  5. Boost Body Awareness: enhance your connection to your body and increase body awareness.

How to Perform Kegels?

To do Kegels, follow these steps:

  1. Identify Your Pelvic Floor Muscles: try to stop the flow of urine midstream when using the restroom. The muscles you use to do this are your pelvic floor muscles.
  2. Contract and Relax: once you’ve identified the muscles, practice contracting and relaxing them. Squeeze the muscles as if you’re trying to hold in gas for three seconds, then relax for three seconds. Repeat these contractions for 10-15 repetitions.
  3. Build Up Gradually: start with shorter holds and fewer repetitions until you build strength and control. Gradually increase the duration and number of repetitions as you progress.
  4. Incorporate into Your Routine: aim to perform Kegel exercises three times a day. Consistency is key for optimal results.

Examples of Kegel Exercises

  1. Basic Kegels: contract your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, then relax for three seconds. Repeat 10-15 times.
  2. Pulsed Kegels: quickly contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles several times in a row, as if you’re doing rapid-fire Kegels.
  3. Long Holds: hold your pelvic floor contraction for an extended period, such as 10 seconds. Perform 5-10 repetitions.
  4. Elevator Kegels: imagine your pelvic floor muscles as an elevator. Slowly contract them as if moving up floors, hold for a second at each level, then slowly relax as if descending floors.
  5. Bridge: lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Contract your pelvic floor muscles and lift your hips towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds and slowly lower. Repeat 15 times.
  6. Leg Lifts: lie on your side with your legs straight. Contract your pelvic floor muscles and lift your top leg towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds and slowly lower. Repeat 15 times on each side.
  7. Bird Dog: start on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Extend your right arm forward and your left leg backward, keeping your pelvic floor muscles engaged. Hold for 5 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
  8. Squats: combine kegels with squats for double the benefit. Perform squats while contracting your pelvic floor muscles throughout the movement.

With dedication and regular practice, kegels offer a simple and effective way to enhance your pelvic health and improve your overall well-being. A personal trainer can design a program customized for you. Seek profressional help from a doctor if you experience severe symptoms.