Kegel or pelvic floor muscle exercises are to help strengthen weak muscles around the bladder. When these muscles are weak, urine can leak from the bladder. These exercises called Kegels (kay-gull) are named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, who developed these exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. There is a sling of muscles extending from the inside of the pubic bone to the anus and surrounds the vagina in women, and the urethra and rectum in men and women. This group of muscles help indirectly control the contractions of the bladder muscle and directly compress the urethra. These muscles contract and relax under your command to control the opening and closing of your urethral sphincters, or the muscles that give you urinary control. Through regular exercise, you may be able to build up their strength and endurance to gain better bladder control.
The Pelvic Floor is a “hammock” of muscles that supports the internal abdominal and pelvic organs. These muscles run in different directions and are different sizes. The job of these muscles is to support, lift and control the muscles that close the urethra (the tube that urine passes through).
You exercise these muscles by squeezing and relaxing them. This takes effort and practice.
- In order to make sure that you are exercising the right muscles, try starting and stopping your urine stream. This exercise will help you find the correct muscles. Do not tighten your buttock or thigh muscles when doing these exercises. Relax your stomach muscles as much as possible.
- When you are standing and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, you should see your penis move slightly.
Don’t continue Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder can lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder and increase the risk of a urinary tract infection.
- Begin by squeezing the muscles for a count of four (4), then relax for a count of four (4). At first, you can only squeeze the muscles for 1-2 seconds, but as your muscles get stronger, you will be able to hold to the count of four (4).
- Work up to repeating these exercises for five (5) minutes twice a day.
- Remember to relax between each squeeze and just let the muscles go loose. Do not push down.
When you first start doing the exercises, you will need to set aside time when you can do them without being interrupted. After you have done them for a while, you can practice these exercises anytime and anywhere.
Always squeeze your pelvic floor muscles when you:
- Sit up from lying down
- Stand from a sitting position
- Lift something heavy
You can practice squeezing these muscles when you are watching TV, standing in line, or driving a car. Since these muscles are inside your body, people do not know you are doing exercises. It usually takes 6-12 weeks to see results. Do these exercises regularly.
- Some people exercise more than they should, hoping that they will regain bladder control quicker. If you exercise too much or too soon, your bladder control may get worse for a while. Start slowly and increase the amount of exercise slowly. Follow the guidelines that your health care team has given you.
- Be sure to breathe during the exercises. Holding your breath may put extra pressure on your pelvic muscles.