Andrew Siegel MD 2/07/15
(Above image courtesy of Pixabay)
A reflex is an automatic response to a stimulus, an action that occurs without conscious thought. Many of us are familiar with the knee jerk reflex in which the knee straightens as a result of the quadriceps muscle contracting in response to the tendon of our kneecap being tapped with a reflex hammer. There are 5 reflexes that you probably are not aware of, but are important to learn about since they are so vital to your urinary and sexual health.
As the sphinx guards the entrance to the Great Pyramids, so the sphincter muscles guard the entrance to the urinary bladder. The voluntary sphincter muscle—the one that you have control of and are capable of contracting at will—is largely composed of the deep pelvic floor muscles (PFMs).
The deep PFMs are your friends, helping you store urine while the bladder fills up. Even when you are not actively squeezing the PFMs, they have a baseline tone, working to provide resistance that keeps you from leaking urine as the bladder becomes fuller. They only relax completely when you urinate.
The guarding reflex is the increase in the contraction strength of these “guarding” PFMs as the bladder gets fuller and fuller, with stronger PFM tone as the volume of urine in the urinary bladder increases.
This reflex is also your good buddy, one that increases the contraction of the PFMs when you cough—above and beyond their resting tone—preventing you from leaking urine. This is nature’s way of protecting you from leaking urine when there is a sudden increase in your abdominal pressure, as occurs with a cough. This protects against cough-related stress urinary incontinence.
Pelvic Floor Muscle-Bladder Reflex (PFM-BR)
This is a very useful and practical reflex that you can tap into. The PFM-BR is a unique reflex since you are capable of engaging this reflex voluntarily, resulting in the relaxation of a muscle as opposed to its contraction. Anyone who has ever experienced an urgent desire to urinate or move their bowels will find it of great practical use. When the reflex is deployed, it will result in relaxation of both the urinary bladder and rectum and a quieting of the urgency.
Here is how it works: When you feel the sudden and urgent desire to urinate, pulse the pelvic floor muscles (PFMs) five times—brief but intense contractions. When the PFM are so deployed, the bladder muscle reflexively relaxes and the feeling of intense urgency should disappear. Likewise, when the PFMs are so deployed, the rectum relaxes and the feeling of intense bowel urgency should diminish. This reflex is a keeper when you are stuck in traffic and have no access to a toilet!
Bulbocavernosus Reflex (BCR)
The bulbocavernosus muscle (BC) is one of the very important superficial PFMs. The BCR is a contraction of the bulbocavernosus and its mates, the ischiocavernosus (IC) muscles when the glans (head) of the penis in a male or the clitoris in a female is squeezed. This reflex is important for maintaining erectile rigidity, since with each contraction of the BC and IC muscles there is a surge of blood flow to the penis/clitoris, maintaining the high blood pressures within the erectile chambers necessary for engorgement of these organs. Sexual stimulation can be thought of as a chain of linked BCRs.
Did you ever experience an urgent desire to urinate and find relief by squeezing the head of the penis? If so, you have discovered the linkage of two reflexes—the BCR coupled with the PF-MBR. Here is what happens: A strong urge to urinate occurs and is managed by squeezing the head of the penis, which makes the urgency dissipate. What is actually happening is that the squeeze of the penis triggers a PFM contraction via the BCR. In turn, the PFM contraction relaxes the bladder muscle via the PFM-BR and makes the urgency either improve or disappear. Reflex magic!
The cremaster muscle surrounds the spermatic cord (the cord-like structure that contains the testicular blood supply, nerves, etc.). The cremasteric reflex occurs when the inner thigh is stroked and the testicle pulls up towards the groin via a contraction of the cremaster muscle. This is a brisk reflex in boys and tends to become less active with aging. It is a natural protective reflex that helps us avoid testicular injury when danger approaches, like a turtle pulling its head into its protective shell.
Bottom Line: The aforementioned reflexes are vital for your sexual and urinary health; knowing about them and how to tap into them can be to your advantage.
Wishing you the best of health,
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Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo) and paperback: http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com
Co-founder of Private Gym: http://www.PrivateGym.com–available on Amazon and Private Gym website
The Private Gym is a comprehensive, interactive, follow-along exercise program that provides the resources to properly strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that are vital to sexual and urinary health. The program builds upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, who popularized exercises for women to increase pelvic strength and tone. This FDA registered program is effective, safe and easy-to-use: The “Basic Training” program strengthens the pelvic floor muscles with a series of progressive “Kegel” exercises and the “Complete Program” provides maximum opportunity for gains through its patented resistance equipment.
Tags: Andrew Siegel MD, Arnold Kegel MD, bulbocavernosus reflex, cough reflex, cremasteric reflex, guarding reflex, male pelvic fitness, pelvic floor muscle training, pelvic floor muscle-bladder reflex, pelvic floor muscles, Pelvic health, Private Gym, reflexes