To Kegel or Not To Kegel
Physical Therapist and guest blogger Jennifer Chu from ITR Physical Therapy weighs in:
Have you heard of Kegel exercises?
Gynecologists recommend them. Maybe you saw an evocative article in a women’s magazine. Have you ever discussed Kegel exercises among friends over a glass of wine? Maybe you’ve heard of these exercises, but what are they exactly?
And how do you do them correctly?
Are they really helpful?
Kegel exercises are intended to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – a sling or group of muscles that have many important functions for our bodies:
- They help us maintain our continence so that we don’t leak urine when we have a strong “urge to go” or when we cough, laugh, sneeze or jump.
- They are an important part of sexual appreciation and orgasm.
- These pelvic floor muscles are part of your “inner core” muscular group and play a big role in lower back and pelvic floor stability.
- And they help hold up and support your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and rectum).
Who should do Kegel exercises?
Women with weakened pelvic floor muscles:
- If you leak urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze or jump, then you likely have stress urinary incontinence and your pelvic floor muscles may be weak.
- If you have been diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse (when the bladder, uterus or rectum lose support and fall below their normal levels), then your pelvic floor muscles are not up to the task of holding these organs in place.
- If you have a separation in your abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) or an unstable pelvis (sacroiliac instability), this could also be due to weakened pelvic floor muscles.
In most of these cases, you might benefit from strengthening your Kegel or pelvic floor muscles.
Did you know that not everyone should be doing Kegel exercises?
This is true if your pelvic floor muscles are too tight. This is actually quite common in women – often without realizing it! Think of this like having too much tension in your upper back – this can cause shoulder pain, neck pain and even headaches. Excess tension in your pelvic floor can cause unwanted symptoms as well:
- Going to the bathroom to urinate too frequently
- Having an urgent need to go
- Pelvic pain
- Pain with intercourse
- Difficulty achieving orgasm
- Hip, groin and back pain
These are all associated with pelvic floor muscles that are overly tight and Kegel exercises may not be right for you.
Have you heard of pelvic floor physical therapy?
A subset of physical therapy, pelvic floor specialists concentrate solely on improving the function of your pelvic floor. Their understanding of how these muscles function allows them to help diagnose injuries, overactivity or deficits. With individualized assessment, they create a treatment plan and oversee the exercises or interventions that help improve the function of your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises are one of the tools that they use.
So…to Kegel or not to Kegel?
Determining whether you are a good candidate for Kegel exercises based on your symptoms and your underlying pelvic floor activity is important. Learning how to properly perform these exercises will help maximize the energy and time invested in improving your symptoms. At ITR Physical Therapy, our Physical Therapists diagnose and manage all types of pelvic floor muscular issues. We are here to help you answer that question for you.
So, why not come in and let us tell you, should you Kegel??
-Jennifer Chu, MS, PT, WCS