Andrew Siegel MD 7/23/16
Image above: Arnold Kegel’s perineometer
The pelvic floor muscles and vagina often become traumatized with the process of pregnancy, labor and vaginal delivery. Pelvic floor dysfunctions may result, including pelvic organ prolapse and vaginal laxity, stress urinary incontinence and sexual issues.
In the 1940s, Dr. Arnold Kegel created a special apparatus called a perineometer to help restore pelvic function and vaginal tone in women who had recently delivered babies. The term is derived from perineum–the anatomical region between the vagina and anus (where many of the pelvic floor muscles are located) and meter–to measure. The device was placed in the vagina and provided resistance to contract the pelvic floor muscles upon and feedback as to pelvic floor muscle strength.
The perineometer is a pneumatic chamber about three inches in length and less than one inch in width. It is attached by tubing to a pressure measuring tool (similar to a blood pressure gadget) that is capable of measuring pressures ranging from 0-100 millimeters (mm). The patient inserted the device into her vagina and then contracted her pelvic muscles. The device provided resistance to clench down upon, similar to contracting one’s biceps against the resistance of the weight of a dumbbell as opposed to doing arm flexes with no weights. The perineometer allowed the user to observe the magnitude of each contraction of her pelvic muscles.
Who Knew? In terms of feedback, the perineometer device is not unlike the “ring the bell” strongman game at an amusement park where one swings a mallet as hard as they can in an effort to ring a bell mounted at the top.
The feedback element was of vital importance to the pelvic floor muscle training process, serving as a visual aid and confirming to the patient that the proper muscles were being contracted. It also served the purpose of showing day-to-day improvement, helping to encourage the participant to complete the program. Kegel recommended recording the maximal contraction at each exercise session, the written documentation providing further encouragement.
Who Knew? Tracking one’s performance is fundamental to the success of pelvic training. By being able to observe forward progress over time, the process is enabled.
Kegel observed that when the vaginal muscles were well developed and had a contractile strength of 20 mm or more, sexual complaints were infrequent. However, when the vaginal muscles were inelastic, thin, poorly toned and had a weak contractile strength, sexual dissatisfaction was commonplace. Kegel observed that younger patients progressed more rapidly through pelvic training than older ones.
Who Knew? Patients vary greatly in their ability to contract their vaginal muscles. Some women are incapable of clenching down on an examining finger in the vagina, whereas others can squeeze so hard that the finger hurts!
Kegel recognized that pelvic muscle reconditioning proceeded in a sequence of stages. The initial phase was awareness and coordination. The next phase was transitional, the adaptive phase when the body learns how to properly execute the exercises; this was followed by regeneration, when the pelvic muscles respond to the exercises and increase their mass, strength, power and coordination. The final stage was restoration, in which there was a leveling out of the maximal pelvic muscle contractions.
Who Knew? Kegel observed that following restoration of pelvic floor muscle function in women with incontinence or pelvic laxity, many patients had increased sexual feelings—including more readily achieved and better quality orgasms.
Kegel’s PFMT regimen was rigorous, requiring a significant investment of time: 20 minutes three times daily for a total of 20-40 hours of progressive resistance exercise over a 20-60 day period. He emphasized the importance of not only pursuing pelvic training after pregnancy, but also prophylactically during pregnancy.
Bottom Line: In the 1940s, Dr. Arnold Kegel developed the prototype pelvic training device used to provide feedback to the user as well as create resistance to contract down upon. After many years of quiescence following Dr. Kegel’s seminal work, we have recently witnessed the availability of numerous resistance devices available in a rapidly changing, competitive and evolving market, all of which are based on Kegel’s perineometer. Most of the sophisticated training devices provide similar basic functionality—insertion into the vagina, connection to a smartphone app, and biofeedback and tracking—although each device has its own special features. An upcoming blog will review the current devices that are available.
Wishing you the best of health,
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Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at TheKegelFix.com
Author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Siegel/e/B004W7IM48
Trailer for The Kegel Fix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHZxoiQb1Cc
Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon. In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD.
Pelvic Rx can be obtained at http://www.UrologyHealthStore.com, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount.
Tags: Andrew Siegel MD, Arnold Kegel MD, biofeedback, Kegel exercises, pelvic floor muscle exercises, pelvic floor muscle training, pelvic floor muscles, perineometer, resistance, resistance device, The Kegel Fix, vagina, vaginal muscles