Kegels and Your Pelvic Floor
Your pelvic floor. What is that anyway? People sometimes talk about it. It seems important, but you can’t see it. It’s on the inside right?
Your pelvic floor is actually a compound structure. There are many components to it. And it IS super important! Your pelvic floor consists of bones, ligaments, connective tissue and muscles that all help to close your bony pelvic outlet.
Kegels…What are those?
You may be most familiar with the word Kegels. Dr. Arnold Kegel was a Gyn in the ’40s and he identified the importance of the functioning of the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a hammock at the base of your pelvis from the back to the front. They support your pelvic organs, wrap around your bladder and rectum as well as connect to your sexual functioning organs. Keeping these muscles strong helps keep you dry, keeps your pelvic organs from sagging and keeps you in tip top sexual shape! Squeezing these muscles is often called Kegel Exercises.
Have you ever had the experience of sneezing and leaking a little bit of urine? These muscles are supposed to kick in when you sneeze, cough, laugh or jump. They should ideally close your bladder and rectum so that you don’t leak urine, stool or gas. If you are leaking, then you are incontinent! I know..ugly scary word. BUT you can just start doing some kegel exercises to remind these muscles what they are supposed to do!
How to do Kegels…and how NOT to do Kegels
- DO NOT stop your steam of urine while you are peeing on the toilet. I know someone might have told you to do that in order to find your pelvic floor muscles. This is a very bad idea! Why? You are sending very confusing signals up to your brain while you are urinating. When you urinate, your muscles and sphincter need to functionally relax in order to void urine. When you squeeze the muscles at the same time your brain is trying to tell your muscles to relax, your signals can get crossed and get very confusing. Yes you can do this one or two times perhaps to FIND the muscles, but not to exercise the muscles consistently. Also, everytime you squeeze while you are urinating, you are risking keeping a little bit of urine back from emptying from the bladder. This residual urine can cause a urinary tract infection.
- Squeeze your muscles when you are not on the toilet, as if you are holding back urine or holding back gas. But don’t squeeze your thigh muscles! And don’t squeeze your butt muscles! And don’t suck in your stomach! That it hard to do, I know. We tend to squeeze bigger muscles when we are trying to recruit smaller muscles. We can see the bigger muscles. Also, when we have to pee and are not near a bathroom, what do we tend to do? We squeeze our knees together right? So we create these bad habits without ever even engaging the right muscles. Think “inside muscles”. Relax the outside muscles.
- Are you breathing? Its also easy to stop breathing when you are thinking about how to squeeze these inside muscles because they are so hard to find! Don’t forget to breathe! This takes a lot of concentration, but you staying alive and breathing is much more important.
- Try sitting on an exercise ball (those oversized physioballs at the gym). Keep your weight centered and try squeezing those muscles. Feel your pelvic floor muscles contracting against the surface of the ball. Sometimes its easier to squeeze against something rather than just squeezing while you are standing or sitting on a regular surface.
- Don’t overwork the muscles. These are small muscles and they tend to fatigue easily. Do 2-3 sets of exercises and then give them a break. Try again tomorrow. It’s also easy to feel discouraged if you can’t find them.
- Don’t give up! These are extremely difficult muscles to find and isolate! I’ve seen even very experienced clinicians not be able to find these muscles. These muscles take a beating over time as well as after labor/delivery. Sometimes it takes months…even years to find them! You may be very kinesthetically aware of your body/muscles and may be able to find and recruit them right away. But if not, don’t fret. Just keep working at it and I promise you will have a super strong pelvic floor in no time.
Watch the video with Dr. Denise Jagroo explaining to tomatoes how to do Kegels at our does “Sexy Have An Expiration Date?” event. She brought down the house.