Kegel Exercises: A Guide To Strengthening The Pelvic Floor For Men And Women

Kegel Exercises

Present in the lower part of the body, the pelvic floor is a group of muscles within the pelvis, which extends from the pubic bone in the front of the body to the tailbone at the back. All these muscles encompass the pelvic floor organs, including the bladder, rectum, uterus, and vagina or prostate. 

The pelvic floors also work with the back and abdominal muscles to support and stabilize the spine. They help control urination, and bowel movements, as well as help, prevent premature ejaculation. Strong pelvic floors play an essential role in healthy sexual function. 

You face many problems when the pelvic floor muscles become weak or compressed. It mainly includes spontaneous leaking or incontinence of urine and stool and lower back pain. 

In some people, a weak pelvic floor can also cause premature ejaculation. In more severe cases, the pelvic organs may slide down from their normal position or move forward slightly, causing pain and discomfort. Pelvic floor disorders are more common in women, but men are no exception and can sometimes experience severe problems.

The risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction or disorders generally increases with age. Still, pelvic floor problems are not a normal part of aging. It is usually more visible after age 40, but some people experience a weak pelvic floor even before that. Unfortunately, there is little awareness about the conditions, symptoms, and treatments associated with pelvic floor disorders, due to which people do not understand the problem at the right time, or do not get the right treatment. 

How To Detect Pelvic Floor Muscles In Women

When you're concerned about the pelvic floor and considering starting Kegel exercises for the first time, finding the right set of those muscles can be tricky. However, there are a few methods you can try to find them.

Stand up straight, place a clean finger or two inside your vagina, and then compress your vaginal muscles around your finger; the muscle that you feel with your fingers contracting could be the pelvic floor muscle.

When you go to urinate, try to hold your urine in the middle. And try to tighten the muscles of the front (genital) and anus, leaving the thighs, butt, and abdomen lost; during this, you will feel that the pelvic floor muscles are contracting. What it feels like when the muscles contract then can be judged by what the correct pelvic floor muscle is.

However, you must note that you should only use this method for learning and understanding purposes. Holding your urine is not a good idea, as incomplete emptying of the bladder can increase the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI).

If you think you are having difficulty locating the pelvic floor muscles, talk to your gynecologist. They may advise you to use an object called a vaginal cone. By which the pelvic floor muscle can be detected.

Biofeedback

One way is biofeedback. Biofeedback training (test) helps you identify your pelvic floor muscles. In this procedure, a doctor or specialist inserts a small probe into your vagina or places adhesive electrodes on the outside of your vagina or anus. And then you'll be asked to try Kegels, in which you compress the pelvic floor muscles, displayed on a monitor, and shows whether you have contracted the correct muscles. And how long were you able to hold the contractions of those muscles?

How To Detect Pelvic Floor Muscles In Men

Like women, men also have trouble identifying the right group of pelvic floor muscles. One way to find the pelvic floor muscles in men is to insert a finger into the rectum and try to squeeze it. Keep in mind that while doing this, do not tighten the muscles of the stomach, buttocks, or thighs at all; let them remain in a relaxed posture. 

Another way is to tense the muscles that keep you from passing gas.

Stopping the urine flow is the best way to locate the pelvic floor muscles. It is a reliable method of finding the pelvic floor muscles in men and women. But remember that it should not be done as a regular practice. 

Like women, biofeedback is helpful for men to explore the pelvic floor muscles. If you have trouble estimating the pelvic floor muscle accurately, then feel free to contact your doctor and specialist. He will give you better suggestions.

Symptoms Of A Weak Pelvic Floor Or Pelvic Floor Disorder

Pelvic floor disorders can occur in different stages. Still, most commonly, a pelvic floor disorder occurs when the muscles that support and stabilize the pelvic organs become weak or damaged and cannot contract or relax.

Some important things to include in the symptoms of pelvic floor problems:

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Pain while urinating
  • Spontaneous leaking of urine
  • Pelvic pressure or heaviness
  • Pain in the pelvic floor, genitals, or rectum
  • Excrement of feces
  • Constipation
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain and difficulty during intercourse
  • Impotence, etc.

Many of these symptoms can also be caused by other causes or diseases and are not necessarily due to a pelvic floor disorder. Therefore, you should always consult a doctor or specialist and be properly assessed for problems.

Causes Affecting The Pelvic Floor

Many factors can affect your pelvic floor, mainly including:

  • Body weight gain
  • Lifting heavy goods
  • High-impact exercise
  • Sitting for a long time
  • Wake up in a jiffy
  • Persistent cough
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Hormonal changes during menopause
  • Genetics
  • Chronic cough
  • Chronic constipation
  • Injury to the pelvic floor from a fall, surgery, or trauma
  • Other neurological problems and disorders, such as Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.

Treatment For Weak Pelvic Floor Or Pelvic Floor Disorders

Suppose you are experiencing a weak pelvic floor or other related problems, especially the inability to control your bowel or bladder. So you contact your doctor and a pelvic floor therapist; they will help you eliminate the issues.

However, for those experiencing mild pelvic floor symptoms, specific daily exercise can be an excellent way to strengthen these muscles and keep your pelvic floor healthy. However, doing inappropriate exercises for your particular situation can make problems worse. 

I will recommend different exercises depending on whether your pelvic floor muscles are weak or tight. Before starting any pelvic exercise, you should seek guidance from a doctor or pelvic floor therapist. You will not notice a difference as soon as you start exercising. It may take a few days or months to feel the improvement, especially if those pelvic floor muscles are more vulnerable.

What Is Kegel Exercise?

Kegel exercises are the most effective way to strengthen and repair the pelvic floor muscles. Kegel exercises are simple clench-and-release exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvis is the area between your hips, which holds your reproductive organs and the anus region and extends from front to back.

A pelvic floor is a group and series of muscles and tissues forming a sling or hammock under your pelvis. This sling keeps your genitals and surrounding organs fixed in the right place. A weak pelvic floor makes it difficult to control your bowels or bladder, which leads to the leakage of urine and stool; sometimes, it is also responsible for early ejaculation.

Once you understand and get used to Kegel exercises, you can easily do them anytime and anywhere, even standing up. 

Why Is Kegel Exercise Done?

The pelvic floor muscles support the genitals, womb, bladder, and intestines. If the pelvic floor muscles are weak, these pelvic organs can come down in a woman unable to support those organs. Due to this, many discomforts can arise, including urinary and stool incontinence.

The weak pelvic floor causes urinary and stool incontinence in men or difficulty controlling ejaculation during intercourse. Especially if men have had prostate surgery, then this problem is seen.

Goals And Benefits Of Kegel Exercises

At the beginning of Kegel exercises, you must focus on a few things prominently. Always empty your bladder before starting Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises mainly involve tightening the pelvic floor muscles and returning them to a relaxed position. But the point of practice is that while doing it, you only have to contract and release the pelvic floor muscles. And only then does it become a good practice.

Doing Kegel exercises in the right way helps a lot in strengthening the pelvic floor. When you start doing Kegel exercises, contract your pelvic floor muscles, hold them for 5 to 15 seconds, then release them back into a relaxed position for 5 to 15 seconds. And do this for 10 to 15 repetitions. It is your exercise regimen, so your goal should be three to five sets of 10 to 15 repetitions daily.

Don't get discouraged if you don't get the desired results immediately because it may take up to a few months for it to take effect. Also, exercises do different things for each person according to their body. In some people, its desired results are seen in a few days, while in others, it is seen to be effective after months of practice.

Certainly, Kegels done in the right way can prevent your condition from getting worse.

Kegel Exercise

Kegel exercises primarily focus on both lifting and releasing the pelvic floor. 

It may be a bit difficult to detect pelvic floor muscles in the beginning. Still, Kegel exercises are done regularly to help in seeing it. Although some consider Kegels beneficial for women's health, this exercise also benefits men.

  • When starting Kegels, remain relaxed, regardless of the position in which you are doing it. Begin by taking a few slow and deep breaths in and out while relaxing your body. Leave the body completely loose.
  • Take a deep breath, and hold your breath for a while. As you exhale, tighten your anus and vagina, lift them both inwards and upwards towards your navel, and compress as if you are stopping the urine flow. Avoid pulling your buttocks, thigh, and abdominal muscles during this time. It may seem not easy initially, but gradually after some practice, you will be able to do it quickly.
  • Try to take it to the next level after the initial stage. With your next inhale, drop your pelvic floor back to the resting position, ensuring you're doing it correctly. And then repeat it 4-5 times in a mild form without any pressure.
  • The next day or next step, try to hold the breath for 15 to 30 seconds and hold it for 15 to 45 seconds as you compress the pelvic floor. As you get used to the exercise, increase it for 5 to 10 seconds or as you like. You gradually increase it to 10-15 repetitions. And can rest for 5-15 seconds between repetitions. You can do this several times a day as per your convenience.
  • You can also practice this while passing urine. When you urinate, stop after passing urine for a few seconds and compress your pelvic floor muscles. In the initial phase, you hold for 5 to 10 seconds and later increase it. And try to pull upwards. Remember that you only have to contract the muscles of your genitals and anus, during which your thighs, butt, and abdominal muscles should be in the same position. Men and women can do this exercise in a way.
  • Once you become more comfortable, you can do Kegels exercises anywhere and in any position. Also, try to contract the pelvic floor muscles whenever you sneeze, cough, or lift something heavy.

Be careful not to stop emptying the bladder to perform the exercise. Incomplete emptying of the bladder can increase the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI) or other disorders. 

Kegel's exercises aren't the only way to strengthen the pelvic floor. Other exercises focusing on the hips, buttocks, and abdominals are also helpful in maintaining the pelvic floor. Because they provide stability by strengthening all the muscles around the bottom floor, a physiotherapist can recommend several other exercise options.

Below are more exercises you can practice to strengthen the pelvic floor.

Stretch Bridge

This exercise works as a bridge with Kegel exercises to strengthen the buttocks, lower back, abdominals, and pelvic floor. 

  • First of all, lie on your back, bend the knees and separate the hips, during this time, the feet are firmly on the floor and the palms are facing down.
  • Now, take a deep breath in. After 5 seconds, slowly exhale, squeeze the lower back (glutes) as you exhale, contract your pelvic floor like a Kegel, and try to pull upward, lift your hips slightly off the ground, and hold for 5 to 15 seconds.
  • Inhale profoundly and slowly lower your lower back to the ground, and release your pelvic floor muscles into a relaxed posture. And repeat this at least 8 to 12 times.

Marches Or Toe Taps

This exercise works to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles.

  • To do this, lie on your back on the floor, bend your knees and raise your legs to the tabletop. During this, the shin should be parallel to the ground, and the hands should be straight towards you. To flatten the arch of your back, pull your stomach and navel towards your spine.
  • After holding your spine for a few seconds, lower your right toes to the floor, inhale, and keep your breath for a few seconds. 
  • Now exhale, engage the pelvic floor and abs, then lift your right leg back up to the undone position.
  • Repeat the exercise with the left leg as with the right leg.
  • Try to repeat 5 to 10 times on each side. As you get used to it, you can increase the number of repetitions as per your ease.

When Should I Contact A Doctor Or Specialist?

For many people, incorporating pelvic floor exercises into their routine is a simple way to strengthen the pelvic muscles and maintain overall pelvic health. And they get much help from it too. But for many people, seeking help from a doctor or specialist trained in pelvic floor issues is a necessary intervention. Because the pelvic floor muscles become more vulnerable and out of control, the best action is to seek professional help and advice.

Below are listed the main factors that may indicate that you should consult a doctor or specialist:

  • Leakage of urine or stool
  • Pain and other problems with bowel movements
  • Pressure in the pelvis
  • Restlessness
  • Bulging feeling outside the vagina or anus when urinating
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowels completely
  • Pain in the vagina, penis, or urinary tract when urinating
  • Pain in the pelvic floor after standing for a long time, etc.

Remember, it is always best to consult your doctor when you notice a problem, even if you think your symptoms are mild or not so severe.

Finding the proper treatment for your condition can help you feel better sooner and prevent further damage to the pelvic floor area or worsening of the problem.

Warning

If you feel pain in your abdomen, back, or lower back after Kegel exercises or other pelvic floor exercises, it is a sign that you are not doing them correctly. Always keep in mind that - when you contract your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles of your abdomen, back, buttocks, thighs, and sides should remain completely loose.

Be it Kegel exercises or other exercises, doing more than necessary can tire your muscles, so do only as much as is needed or as your trainer or specialist recommends.

Conclusion

Regular pelvic floor strengthening exercises are a great way to work out these muscles and boost your overall health. The right way to exercise is to focus on form and function, perform the exercise correctly, and engage the muscles in the right way each time you exercise.

Suppose you're starting with these exercises or want extra help. In that case, it's best to consult a pelvic floor specialist or physical therapist. They can recommend specific exercises and make sure you're doing them correctly.

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