Posts Tagged ‘pelvic floor muscle training’

When Ejaculation Goes South

September 1, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD   9/1/2018

Ejaculation issues can be bothersome and distressing and sometimes even relationship-threatening. Most men do not particularly care for meager, weak-intensity ejaculation and orgasm, or if the process occurs too rapidly, or too slowly, or not at all. Functioning sexually—the ability to achieve a reasonable erection, ejaculate, climax and satisfy one’s partner—retains its importance no matter what our age.

Penis art

Artwork above is photo taken of drawing in Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik

 

The word ejaculation (from ex, meaning “out” and jaculari, meaning “to throw, shoot, hurl, cast”) is defined as the discharge of semen from the urethral channel, usually accompanied by orgasm.

A Few Words on the Science of Ejaculation

Nerve input from the brain and the penis is integrated in the spinal ejaculatory center. Ejaculation occurs after sufficient intensity and duration of sexual stimulation passes an “ejaculatory” threshold—the “point of no return.”  The phases of ejaculation are emission and expulsion.  Emission releases pooled reproductive gland secretions into the urethra and expulsion propels these secretions via rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor muscles.

The spinal ejaculatory center is controlled mainly by the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin inhibits ejaculation whereas dopamine facilitates it. One’s balance of these neurotransmitters is determined by genetics and other factors including age, stress, illness, medications, etc.

The processes of obtaining a rigid erection and ejaculating are separate, even though they typically occur at the same time. When the two processes harmonize, ejaculation is more satisfying.  This is so because the urethra functions as the “barrel” of the penile “rifle,” surrounded by spongy erectile tissue that constricts and pressurizes the “barrel” to optimize ejaculation and promote the forceful expulsion of semen.

Fact: It is possible to have a rock-hard erection and be unable to ejaculate, and conversely, to be able to ejaculate with a flaccid penis.

The pelvic floor muscles play a key role in ejaculation. The bulbocavernosus muscle engages when one has an erection and becomes maximally active at time of ejaculation. It is a compressor muscle that surrounds the spongy erectile tissue that envelops the urethra and contracts rhythmically at the time of ejaculation, sending wave-like pulsations rippling down the urethra to forcibly propel the semen, providing the power behind ejaculation.

Ejaculation Problems

Although premature ejaculation is often a problem of younger men, many of the other ejaculation issues correlate with aging, weight gain, the presence of prostate symptoms and erectile dysfunction. As we age, there is a decline of sensory nerve function, weakening of pelvic floor muscles, and diminished fluid production by the reproductive glands. Furthermore, medications and surgery that are used to treat prostate issues can profoundly affect ejaculation.

“It happens too fast”

Premature ejaculation (PE) is a condition in which sexual climax occurs before, upon, or shortly after vaginal penetration, prior to one’s desire to do so, with minimal voluntary control. It is the most common form of ejaculatory dysfunction. It often happens in less than one minute and leads to dissatisfaction, distress and frustration of the sufferer and his partner.

In a study of over 1500 men, The Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that the average time between penetration and ejaculation for a premature ejaculator was 1.8 minutes, compared to 7.3 minutes for non-premature ejaculators.

PE can be psychological and/or physical and can occur because of over-sensitive genital skin, hyperactive reflexes, extreme arousal or infrequent sexual activity. Other factors are genetics, guilt, fear, performance anxiety, inflammation and/or infection of the prostate or urethra, and can be related to the use of alcohol or other substances. It is very typical among men during their earliest sexual experiences.

PE can be lifelong or acquired and sometimes occurs on a situational basis. Lifelong PE is thought to have a strong biological component. Acquired PE can be biological, based on inflammation/infection of the reproductive tract or psychological, based upon situational stressors. PE can sometimes be related to erectile dysfunction, with the rapid ejaculation brought on by the desire to climax before losing the erection.

A variety of measures can be used to overcome PE. Slowing the tempo requires one to develop awareness of the sensation immediately before ejaculation. By slowing the pace of pelvic thrusting and varying the angle and depth of penetration before the “point of no return” is reached, the feeling of imminent ejaculation can dissipate. If slowing the tempo is not sufficient to prevent the PE, one may need to pause and stop thrusting so that the ejaculatory “urgency” goes away. Once the sensation subsides, thrusting is resumed. The squeeze technique, originated by Masters and Johnson, consists of withdrawal before ejaculation, squeezing the penile head until the feeling of ejaculation passes, after which intercourse is resumed. Although effective, it requires interruption and a cooperative partner. Pelvic floor muscle contractions are a less cumbersome alternative to the squeeze technique. Thrusting is paused temporarily and a sustained pelvic muscle contraction is performed, essentially an internal “squeeze” (without the external hand squeeze) that short-circuits the PE.

Other methods include using thick condoms to decrease sensitivity, or alternatively, topical local anesthetics can be applied to the penis before intercourse. Another desensitization technique is more frequent ejaculation, since PE tends to be more pronounced after longer periods of sexual abstinence. Pre-emptive masturbation prior to engaging in sexual intercourse may help achieve this. Erectile dysfunction medications can be helpful for acquired PE that is due to erectile dysfunction and certainly can help achieve a second erection after climax. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, commonly used for depression, anxiety, etc., have a side effect of substantially delaying ejaculation and are often used effectively for PE.

“It takes too long”

Delayed ejaculation (DE) is a condition in which ejaculation occurs only after a prolonged time following penetration. Some men are unable to ejaculate at all, despite having a rigid and durable erection.

DE can be problematic for both the delayed ejaculator and his partner, resulting in frustration, exhaustion, and soreness and pain for both partners. The sexual partner often feels distress and responsibility because of the implication that the problem may be their fault and that they are inadequate in terms of attractiveness or enabling a climax. The combination of not being able to achieve sexual “closure,” the inability to enjoy the mutual intimacy of ejaculation, and denying the partner the gratification of knowing that they can bring their man to climax is a perfect storm for a stressful relationship. As tempting as it is to think that DE is an asset in terms of pleasing your partner, a “marathon” performance has major shortcomings.

Interestingly, some men with this condition can ejaculate in an appropriate amount of time with masturbation. As well, some men can ejaculate in a normal time frame with manual or oral stimulation from their partner although they cannot do so with vaginal sexual intercourse.

Underlying medical conditions can factor in: hypothyroidism is strongly associated with delayed ejaculation, whereas hyperthyroidism is associated with premature ejaculation. Since serotonin and dopamine as well as other hormones and chemicals are involved with ejaculatory control, any drug that modifies their levels may affect ejaculation timing. As stated previously, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors delay can substantially delay or prevent ejaculation in a man without pre-existing ejaculation issues. Various neurological conditions that disrupt the communication between the spinal ejaculatory center and the brain/penis can also cause this type of ejaculatory dysfunction.

Fact: As with so many sexual dysfunctions, excessive focus on the problem instead of allowing oneself to be “in the moment” can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.  In other words, if one goes into a sexual situation mentally dwelling and consumed with the problem, it is likely that this may spur on the problem. This goes for both premature and delayed ejaculation.

One solution is to avoid ejaculation for several days prior to intercourse, the same line of reasoning used for managing premature ejaculation by masturbating immediately before intercourse. Sexual counseling using sensate focus therapy has proven to be of benefit to some patients with DE.

“Ejaculation doesn’t happen”

Absent ejaculation happens with surgical removal of the male reproductive organs, as occurs with radical prostatectomy and radical cystectomy for prostate and bladder cancer, respectively. It can also occur in the presence of neurological disorders. In these circumstances, orgasm can still be experienced, although the ejaculation is “dry.”

 “Not much fluid comes out”

Skimpy ejaculatory volume is common with aging, as the reproductive organs “dry out” to some extent. It also occurs with commonly used prostate medications that either reduce reproductive gland secretions or cause the semen to be ejaculated backwards into the urinary bladder, a.k.a.,retrograde ejaculation. Even though ejaculation is backwards, the sensation tends to be unchanged.

“It dribbles out without force or much of a pleasant sensation”

What was once the ability to forcefully ejaculate a substantial volume of semen in an arc several feet in length associated with an intense orgasm gives way to a lackluster experience with a small volume of semen weakly dribbled out of the penis. These issues clearly correlate with aging, weakened pelvic floor muscles and erectile dysfunction.

Ways to Optimize Ejaculation

  • Healthy lifestyleWholesome and nutritious eating habits and maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, adequate sleep, alcohol in moderation, avoidance of tobacco, and stress management will help keep all organs and tissues functioning well, including the ejaculatory “apparatus.”
  • Pelvic floor muscle training: Strong pelvic floor muscles under good voluntary control can help control the timing of ejaculation as well as enable powerful contractions to forcibly ejaculate semen. Readers are directed to the Male Pelvic Fitness book that I wrote and the PelvicRx DVD (interactive DVD and digital access) that I co-created as excellent resources for learning how to properly pursue pelvic floor muscle training.  For more detailed and scientific information on the topic of pelvic floor training, please see a review article I wrote for the Gold Journal of Urology: Pelvic floor training in males: Practical applications.

Fact: The “ejaculator” muscle is the bulbocavernosus muscle,  also responsible for expelling the last few drops of urine after emptying your bladder.  Many men have both erection/ejaculation issues as well as an after-dribble of urination, called post-void dribbling.  Whip the bulbocavernosus into shape and you can improve all functions of the muscle. Note in image below (from 1909 Gray’s Anatomy, public domain) how this muscle surrounds the deep, inner part of the channel that conducts urine and semen.  When strengthened, this muscle will be you BFF in the bedroom!

Bulbospongiosus-Male

Ejaculator muscle (in red)

  • Breathe deeply and slowly: During sexual activity there is a tendency for shallow and rapid breathing or breath holding because of excitement and increasing sexual tension. Depth and rhythm of breathing can affect ejaculation with deep, full breaths optimal.
  • Stay sexually active: All body parts need to be used on a regular basis, including our reproductive organs. Keep the erectile and ejaculatory muscles fit by using them as nature intended.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

 

 

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“Preventive” Kegels: A Cutting-Edged Concept

August 25, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  8/25/18

prevention                        Attribution: Alpha Stock Images – http://alphastockimages.com/

“People whose diseases are prevented as opposed to cured may never really appreciate what has been done for them. Zimmerman’s law: Nobody notices when things go right.” …Walter M. Bortz II, M.D.

“To guard is better than to heal, the shield is nobler than the spear!”                                  …Oliver Wendell Holmes

Achieving a fit pelvic floor by strengthening and toning the pelvic muscles is a first line approach that can improve a variety of pelvic maladies in a way that is natural, easily accessible and free from harmful side effects. Although it is always desirable to treat the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, it is another dimension entirely to take a proactive approach by strengthening the pelvic muscles to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.

Pregnancy, labor, childbirth, aging, menopause, weight gain, gravity, straining and chronic increases in abdominal pressure take a toll on pelvic anatomy and function and can adversely affect vaginal tone, pelvic organ support, urinary and bowel control and sexual function.  Humans have a remarkable capacity for self-repair and pelvic issues can be dealt with after the fact, but why be reactive instead of being proactive?  Why not attend to future problems before they actually become problems? Isn’t a better approach “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Why not pursue a strategy to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction instead of fixing it, not allowing function to become dysfunction in the first place?

To be the “devil’s advocate,” the answers to the aforementioned questions posed may be:

  1. Why bother at all, since pelvic issues may never surface.
  2. Being proactive takes work and effort and many humans do not have the motivation and determination required to pursue and stick with any exercise program.
  3. If I put in the effort and pelvic issues never surface, how do I even know that it was my efforts that prevented the problem.

In the USA, over 350,000 surgical procedures are performed annually to treat two of the most common pelvic floor dysfunctions—stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.  Estimates are that by the year 2050, this number will rise to more than 600,000.  These sobering statistics provide the incentive for changing the current treatment paradigm to a preventive pelvic health paradigm with the goal of avoiding, delaying or diminishing deterioration in pelvic floor function.

If birth trauma to the pelvic floor often brings on pelvic floor dysfunction as well as urinary, bowel, gynecological and sexual consequences, why not start pelvic training well before pregnancy? This runs counter to both our repair-based medical culture that is not preventive-oriented and our patient population that often opts for fixing things as opposed to preventing them from occurring.

Realistically, pelvic training prior to pregnancy will not prevent pelvic floor dysfunction in everyone.  Unquestionably, obstetrical trauma (9 months of pregnancy, labor and vaginal delivery of a baby that is about half the size of a Butterball turkey, repeated several times) can and will often cause pelvic floor dysfunction, whether the pelvic muscles are fit or not!  However, even if pelvic training does not prevent all forms of pelvic floor dysfunction, it will certainly impact it in a very positive way, lessening the degree of the dysfunction and accelerating the healing process. Furthermore, mastering pelvic exercises before pregnancy will make carrying the pregnancy easier and will facilitate labor and delivery and the effortless resumption of the exercises in the post-partum period, as the exercises were learned under ideal circumstances, prior to pelvic injury. Since there are other risk factors for pelvic muscle dysfunction aside from obstetric considerations, this preventive model is equally applicable to women who are not pregnant or never wish to become pregnant.

Preventive health is commonly practiced with respect to general physical fitness. We work out not only to achieve better fitness, but also to maintain fitness and prevent losses in strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, etc.  In this spirit, I encourage those of you who are enjoying excellent pelvic health to maintain this health with a preventive pelvic training program.  For those working to improve your pelvic health, continue forward on the journey.  Regardless of whether your goal is treatment or prevention, a pelvic training program will allow you to honor your pelvic floor and become empowered from within.

Bottom Line: You can positively affect your own pelvic health destiny.  It is better not to be reactive and wait for your pelvic health to go south, but to be proactive to ensure your continuing sexual, urinary and bowel health. If you wait for the onset of a dysfunction to motivate you to action, it may possibly be too late. Think about integrating a preventive pelvic floor training program into your exercise regimen—it’s like a vaccine to prevent a disease that hopefully you will never get.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

Female Pelvic Floor Muscle Resistance Training Part 2: Sophisticated PFMT Devices

July 28, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  7/28/2018

Following last week’s entry that reviewed the basic resistance devices, today’s entry reviews some of the more complex pelvic floor muscle (PFM) resistance devices.  These are complex and often expensive devices that provide resistance, biofeedback and tracking, often via Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone. Many provide specific PFM training programs to follow for optimal results. This entry reviews a the most popular devices.

 

elvie

Above image is of the Elvie, one of the more sophisticated pelvic training devices (Elvie.com)

 

Lovelife Krush: Made by sex technology company OhMiBod, this is a dumbbell-shaped device that you insert vaginally and connect via Bluetooth to a companion app TASL (The Art and Science of Love).  Its voice-guided training program tracks PFM contraction pressure, endurance and number of reps and provides vibrational stimulation as you perform the exercises. Cost is $129 (Lovelifetoys.com/lovelife-krush).

kGoal:  Its name is a play on the word “Kegel.” It is an interactive “smart” device that consists of an inflatable and squeezable plastic “pillow” that is attached to an external handle.  It provides feedback, resistance and tracking. You insert the pillow in your vagina and inflate or deflate it with a button control to obtain a good fit.  When you contract your PFM properly, the device vibrates to give you biofeedback. The kGoal app can be downloaded on your smartphone and connected to the device via Bluetooth. The interface provides a guided workout including pulses, 5-second holds and slow and deliberate holds. It provides visual and auditory feedback and tracks your progress. The device measures the strength of your vaginal contractions and at the end of a workout you receive a score of 1-10 to help monitor your progress. Cost is $149 (Minnalife.com).

Vibrance Kegel Device: This biofeedback tool can be set at different resistance levels and provides audio guidance and coaching.  It consists of a pressure-sensitive element that you insert in your vagina.  When you contract your PFM properly, it delivers mild vibrational pulsations.  It has three different training sheaths of increasing stiffness that provide graduated levels of resistance for different training intensities. Cost is $165 (VibrancePelvicTrainer.com).

Elvie:  Manufactured in the UK, Elvie is a wearable, egg-shaped, waterproof, flexible device that you insert in your vagina. Your PFM contraction strength is measured and sent via Bluetooth to a companion mobile app that provides biofeedback to track progress. Five-minute workouts are designed to lift and tone the PFM.  The app includes a game designed to keep users engaged by bouncing a ball above a line by clenching their PFM. The carrying case also serves as a charging device. Cost is $199 (Elvie.com).

PeriCoach:  Manufactured in Australia, PeriCoach is a vaginal device that measures PFM contraction strength, which is relayed to your smartphone via Bluetooth to a companion mobile app. It provides a guided exercise program, data monitoring and audio-visual biofeedback. It is available only by prescription. Cost is $299 (PeriCoach.com).

InTone: This device must be prescribed by a physician and is specifically for stress urinary incontinence and overactive bladder. It combines voice-guided PFM exercises with visual biofeedback and electro-stimulation. It consists of an inflatable vaginal probe that provides resistance and measures PFM contractile strength. The probe is attached to a handle and a separate control unit furnishes the guided program and biofeedback. An illuminated bar graph displays the strength of your PFM contractions and objective data to track your progress. Exercise sessions are 12 minutes in length. Cost is $795 (Incontrolmedical.com).

As reported in the International Journal of Urogynecology, a 3-month clinical trial of the InTone device resulted in significant subjective and objective improvements in patients with stress incontinence and overactive bladder.

Do you really need to use a resistance device? 

You can strengthen your PFM and improve/prevent pelvic floor dysfunction without using resistance, so it is not imperative to use a device that is placed in the vagina in order to derive benefits from PFMT. Some women are unwilling or cannot place a device in the vagina. However, using resistance is the most efficient means of accelerating the muscle adaptive process as recognized and espoused by Dr. Kegel, since muscle strengthening occurs in direct proportion to the demands placed upon the muscle.  There is a real advantage to be derived from squeezing against a compressible device as opposed to against air. Furthermore, the biofeedback that many of the resistance devices provide is invaluable in ensuring that you are contracting your PFM properly and in tracking your progress.

Which resistance device will work best for you?

There are many resistance devices available in a rapidly changing, competitive and evolving market. Most of the sophisticated training devices provide the same basic functionality—insertion into the vagina, connection to a smartphone app, and biofeedback and tracking—although each device has its own special features. The goal is to find a device that is comfortable and easy to use.  Some devices are more medically-oriented whereas others are more sex toy-oriented.  Each has unique bells and whistles, some offering programs with guidance and coaching and a few incorporating games to make the PFMT process entertaining. I urge you to visit the website of any device that you might be interested in to obtain more information. Read their reviews in order to make an informed choice as to which product is most appropriate for you.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female Pelvic Floor Muscle Resistance Training

July 21, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD   7/21/2018

30D6603200000578-3429696-image-m-59_1454495206349-678x381

            Kim Anami started the trend of vaginal weightlifting; visit her website at http://www.kimanami.com

 

 “In the preservation or restoration of muscular function, nothing is more fundamental than the frequent repetition of correctly guided exercises instituted by the patient’s own efforts.  Exercise must be carried out against progressively increasing resistance, since muscles increase in strength in direct proportion to the demands placed upon them.”

–JV Luck, Air Surgeon’s Bulletin, 1945

“Resistance exercise is one of the most efficient ways to stimulate muscular and metabolic adaptation.”

–Mark Peterson, PhD

Resistance

Resistance training is a means of strength conditioning in which work is performed against an opposing force. The premise of resistance training is that by gradually and progressively overloading the muscles working against the resistance, they will adapt by becoming bigger and stronger. Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) using resistance optimizes pelvic floor muscle (PFM) conditioning, resulting in more power, stability and endurance and the functional benefits to pelvic health that accrue. It also helps to rebuild as well as maintain PFM mass that tends to decrease with aging.

Applying resistance training to the pelvic floor muscles

Resistance is easy to understand with respect to external muscles, e.g., it is applied to the biceps muscles when you do arm curls with dumbbells. Resistance training can be applied to the PFM by contracting your PFM against a compressible device placed in your vagina.  Its presence gives you a physical and tangible object to squeeze against, as opposed to basic training, which exercises the PFM without resistance. Resistance PFMT is similar to weight training—in both instances, the adaptive process gradually but progressively increases the capacity to do more reps with greater PFM contractility and less difficulty completing the regimen. In time, the resistance can be dialed up, accelerating the adaptive process.

In the late 1940s, Dr. Arnold Kegel devised the perineometer that enabled resistance PFM exercises. It consisted of a pneumatic vaginal chamber connected by tubing to a pressure manometer.  This device provided both a means of resistance and visual biofeedback. The chamber was inserted into the vagina and the PFM were contracted while observing the pressure gauge (calibrated from 0-100 mm mercury). With training, the PFM strength increased in proportion to the measured PFM contractions.

PFMT resistance tools

There are many PFM resistance devices on the market and my intention is to provide information about what is available, but NOT to endorse any product in particular. What follows is by no means a comprehensive review of all products. Some are basic and simple, but many of the newer ones are “high tech” and sophisticated means of providing resistance, biofeedback and tracking, often via Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone. I classify the devices into vaginal weights, electro-stimulation devices, simple resistance devices and sophisticated resistance devices.  Within each category, the devices are listed in order of increasing cost.

Vaginal Weights

These weighted objects are placed in the vagina and require PFM engagement in order that they stay in position. They are not intended to be used with any formal training program but do provide resistance to contract down upon.

Vaginal Cones: These are a set of cones of identical shape but variable weights.  Initially, you place a light cone in your vagina and stand and walk about, allowing gravity to come into play. PFM contractions are required to prevent the cone from falling out. The intent is to retain the weighted cone for fifteen minutes twice daily to improve the strength of the PFM.  Gradual progression to heavier cones challenges the PFM.  (Search “vaginal cones” as there are several products on the market.)

Word of advice: Be careful not to wear open-toed shoes when walking around with the weighted cones…a broken toe is a possible complication!

Ben Wa Balls:  These are similar to vaginal cones but appear more like erotic toys than medical devices. There are numerous variations on the theme of weighted balls that can be inserted in your vagina, available in a variety of different sizes and weights.  Some are attached to a string, allowing you to tug on the balls to add more resistance. Another type has a compressible elastic covering that can be squeezed down upon with PFM contractions. Still others vibrate. There are some upscale varieties that are carved into egg shapes from minerals such as jade and obsidian. (Search “Ben Wa Balls.”)

Kim Anami is the queen of vaginal kung fu, a life and sex coach who advocates vaginal “weightlifting” to help women physically and emotionally “reconnect” to their vaginas and become more in tune with their sexual energy. Her weightlifting has included coconuts, statues, conch shells, etc.  According to her, vaginal weightlifting increases libido, lubrication, orgasm potential and sexual pleasure for both partners.                                                                                                                       

Electro-Stimulation Devices

These devices work by passive electrical stimulation of the PFM.  Electrical impulses trigger PFM contractions without the necessity for active engagement.  Many clinical studies have shown that electro-stimulation in conjunction with PFMT offers no real advantages over PFMT alone. Like the electrical abdominal belts that claim to tone and shape your abdominal muscles with no actual work on your part, these devices seem much better in theory than in actual performance.

Intensity: This is a battery-powered erotic device that looks like the popular “rabbit” vibrator sex toy.  It consists of an inflatable vaginal probe that has an external handle. It has contact points on the probe that electro-stimulate the PFM and vibrators for both clitoral and “G-spot” stimulation. It has 5 speeds and 10 levels of stimulation. Cost is $199 (Pourmoi.com).

ApexM:  This device is intended for use by patients with stress urinary incontinence.  It consists of an inflatable vaginal probe and control handle. It is inserted inside the vagina, inflated it for a snug fit and powered on.  Electric current is used to induce PFM contractions. The intensity is increased until a PFM contraction occurs, after which the device is used 5-10 minutes daily. Cost is $299 (Incontrolmedical.com).

Simple PFMT Resistance Devices

These are basic model, inexpensive resistance devices. They consist of varying physical elements that you place in your vagina to give you a tangible object to contract your PFM upon. They provide biofeedback to ensure that you are contracting the proper muscles. Some offer progressive resistance while others only a single resistance level.

These devices can be used in conjunction with the specific programs that were specified in a previous blog entry.  To do so, repeat the 4-week program for your specific pelvic floor dysfunction while incorporating these devices into the regimen. You may discover that the 4-week programs using the devices that offer progressive resistance become too challenging as you dial up the resistance level. If this is the case, you can continue with the first week’s program while increasing the resistance over time. Customize and modify the programs to make them work for you, as was recommended for the tailored programs without using resistance.

Educator Pelvic Floor Exercise Indicator:  This is a tampon-shaped device that you insert into your vagina. It is attached to an external arm that moves when you are contracting the PFM properly, giving you positive feedback. Cost is $32.99 on Amazon (Neenpelvichealth.com).

Gyneflex: This is a flexible V-shaped plastic device that is available in different resistances. You insert it in your vagina (apex of the V first) and when you squeeze your PFM properly, the external handles on each limb of the V close down, the goal being to get them to touch. Cost is $39.95 (Gyneflex.com). The Gyneflex is similar in form and function to hand grippers that increase grip strength. 

Pelvic Toner:  Manufactured in the UK, this is a spring-based resistance device that you insert into your vagina.  It has an external handle and two internal arms that remain separated, so the device must be held closed and inserted. When your hold is released the device springs open and, by contracting your PFM, you can close the device. It offers five different levels of resistance. Cost is 29.99 British pounds (Pelvictoner.co.uk).

Magic Banana: This is a PFM exerciser that consists of a loop of plastic and silicone tubing joined on a handle end. The loop is inserted in the vagina and squeezed against.  When the PFM are contracted properly, the two arms of the loop squeeze together. Cost is $49.99 (Magicbanana.com).

KegelMaster: This is a spring-loaded device that you insert in your vagina and is squeezed upon. It has an external handle with a knob that can be tightened or loosened to provide resistance by clamping down or separating the two arms of the internal component. Four springs offer different levels of resistance. Cost is $98.95 (Kegelmaster.com).

Kegel Pelvic Muscle Thigh ExerciserThis is a Y-shaped plastic device that fits between your inner thighs.  When you squeeze your thighs together, the gadget squeezes closed. This exerciser has NOTHING to do with the PFM as it strengthens the adductor muscles of the thigh, serving only to reinforce doing the wrong exercise and it is shameful that the manufacturer mentions the terms “Kegel” and “pelvic muscle” in the description of this product.

To be continued next week, with a review of sophisticated PFMT resistance devices.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health

Cover

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

New video on female pelvic floor exercises:  Learn about your pelvic floor

 

Integrating Kegels With Other Exercises

March 17, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD     3/17/2018

Initially, it is important to isolate the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) and exercise them while not actively contracting any other muscle groups. Once PFM mastery is achieved, PFM exercises can then be integrated into other exercise routines, workouts and daily activities.

No Muscle is an Island

In real life, muscles do not work in isolation, but rather as part of a team. The PFM are no exception, often contracting in conjunction with the other core muscles in a mutually supportive way, co-activating to maintain lumbar-pelvic stability, help prevent back pain and contribute to pelvic tone and strength.

The core muscles—including the PFM—stabilize the trunk when the limbs are active, enabling powerful limb movements. It is impossible to use arm and leg muscles effectively in any athletic endeavor without engaging a solid core as a “platform” from which to push off. Normally this happens without conscious effort; however, with focus and engagement, the core and PFM involvement can be optimized. The stronger the core platform, the more powerful the potential push off that platform will be, resulting in more forceful arm and leg movements. Thus, maximizing PFM strength has the benefit of optimizing limb power.  Core training that exercises the abdominal/lumbar/pelvic muscles as a unit improves the PFM response. Many Pilates and yoga exercises involve consciously contracting the PFM together with other core muscles during exercise routines.

Integrating PFMT with Other Exercises

Dynamic exercises in which complex body movements are coupled with core and PFM engagement provide optimal support and “lift” of the PFM, enhance non-core as well as core strength and heighten the mind-body connection. When walking, gently contract your PFM to engage them in the supportive role for which they were designed, which will also contribute to good posture. Consciously contract the PFM when standing up, climbing steps, doing squats and lunges, marching, skipping, jumping, jogging, and dancing.  When cycling, periodically get up out of the saddle and contract your PFM to get blood flowing to the compressed pelvic muscles and perineum.

Integrating PFMT with Weight Training: “Compensatory” Pelvic Contractions

Weight training and other forms of high impact exercise result in tremendous increases in abdominal pressure. This force is largely exerted downwards towards the pelvic floor, particularly when exercising in the standing position, when gravity comes into play, potentially harmful to the integrity of the PFM.  Engaging the PFM during such efforts will help counteract the downward forces exerted on the pelvic floor.  “Compensatory” PFM contractions, in which the PFM are contracted in proportion to the increased abdominal pressure, are effective in balancing out the forces exerted upon the pelvic floor.

Wishing you the best of health!

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

 

 

 

Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training: Part 4

March 3, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD   3/3/2018

There are few, if any, pelvic programs in existence targeted for specific pelvic floor dysfunctions, as what you will generally find is a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

What follows are focused pelvic training programs, each designed for the nuances of the specific pelvic dysfunction at hand.  I have designed a general program as well as programs for poor pelvic muscle endurance, stress urinary incontinence (SUI), overactive bladder (OAB), pelvic organ prolapse (POP)/vaginal laxity, sexual/orgasm issues, bowel incontinence and pelvic pain. These programs have been carefully crafted based on my specialized training in pelvic medicine and surgery, clinical experience, interactions with physical therapists, exercise/fitness experts, Pilates and yoga instructors, and most importantly, my patients.

 General PFMT Program

The general program is a balanced program that incorporates strength and endurance training.  It is intended for women who are found to have poor PFM strength or poor strength and endurance on the preliminary testing. It is also appropriate for women without specific pelvic issues who wish to pursue a PFM exercise program to make their PFM stronger, more durable and to help prevent the onset of pelvic floor issues.

Perform the following: 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly; with each week try to step up the intensity of the PFM contractions and duration of the short contractions; allot equal time to relaxing phase as contracting phase; refer back to previous pages if you need a refresher on snaps, shorts and sustained.

 Week 1: snaps x20; 2-5 second shorts x15; 10 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

 Week 2: snaps x30; 2-5 second shorts x20; 10 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

 Week 3: snaps x40; 2-5 second shorts x25; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

 Week 4: snaps x50; 2-5 second shorts x30; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

Week 5 and on: Advance to resistance training. However, if you were severely challenged by this non-resistance program or cannot or prefer not to use resistance—which requires the placement of a device in your vagina—you can continue this as a “maintenance” program, consisting of the Week 4 regimen performed twice weekly (as opposed to every other day).

 PFMT for Poor PFM Endurance

This program is designed for those with satisfactory PFM strength (Oxford grades 3-5), but poor endurance. The number of contractions performed and contraction duration are gradually increased over the course of the training program as adaptation occurs.

Perform the following: 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly; allot equal time to relaxing phase as contracting phase.

 Week 1: snaps x15; 2 second shorts x15; 6 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

 Week 2: snaps x25; 3 second shorts x20; 8 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

 Week 3: snaps x35; 4 second shorts x25; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

 Week 4: snaps x50; 5 second shorts x30; 10 second sustained x4 = 1 set 

 Week 5 and on: Advance to resistance training.  If you found yourself severely challenged by this non-resistance program or cannot/prefer not to use resistance (which requires the placement of a device in your vagina), you can continue this as a “maintenance” program consisting of the Week 4 regimen performed twice weekly (as opposed to every other day).

PFMT for POP/Vaginal Laxity

Endurance training is especially relevant for those with POP and poor vaginal tone. Focusing on sustained contractions will benefit the slow twitch endurance PFM fibers that are the prime contributors to pelvic tone and support. 

 Perform the following: 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly; with each successive week, work on stepping up the intensity of the PFM contractions; allot equal time to relaxing phase as contracting phase.

 Week 1: snaps x20; 2-5 second shorts x15; 10 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

 Week 2: snaps x30; 2-5 second shorts x20; 10 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

 Week 3: snaps x40; 2-5 second shorts x25; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

 Week 4: snaps x50; 2-5 second shorts x30; 10 second sustained x4 = 1 set 

 Week 5 and on: Advance to resistance training.  However, if you were severely challenged by this non-resistance program or cannot or prefer not to use resistance—which requires the placement of a device in your vagina—you can continue using this as a “maintenance” program, which will consist of the Week 4 regimen performed twice weekly (as opposed to every other day).

PFMT for Sexual/Orgasm Issues

The PFM contract intensively at the time of climax with each contraction lasting about 0.8 of a second, about how long snaps last. A series of vigorous snaps is precisely the PFM contraction pattern experienced at the time of orgasm. If you have issues with achieving an orgasm or with orgasm intensity, this natural contraction pattern is replicated in this program, which focuses on high-intensity pulses of the PFM (snaps) that benefit the fast twitch explosive fibers.  Endurance training is also important for sexual function since sustained contractions benefit the slow twitch endurance PFM fibers that contribute to pelvic support and vaginal tone.    

Perform the following: 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly; with each week work on stepping up the intensity of the snap PFM contractions; allot equal time to relaxing phase as contracting phase.

Week 1: snaps x30; 2-5 second shorts x15; 10 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

Week 2: snaps x40; 2-5 second shorts x20; 10 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

Week 3: snaps x50; 2-5 second shorts x25; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

Week 4: snaps x60; 2-5 second shorts x30; 10 second sustained x4 = 1 set 

Week 5 and on: Advancing to the resistance training.  However, if you were severely challenged by this non-resistance program or cannot/prefer not to use resistance—which requires the placement of a device in your vagina—you can continue using this as a “maintenance” program, consisting of the Week 4 regimen performed twice weekly (as opposed to every other day).

PFMT for SUI

Strength and power training are critical for managing SUI, with the power element (i.e., how rapidly you can maximally contract your PFM) vital in order to react quickly to SUI triggers.  Focusing on moderate intensity contractions that last for several seconds (shorts) will benefit SUI, as this type of PFM contraction deployed prior to and during any activity that induces the SUI will help prevent its occurrence.  Attention directed to these short contractions will allow earlier activation of the PFM with SUI triggers, as well as increased contraction strength and durability to counteract the sudden increase in abdominal pressure that induces SUI.  Effort applied to sustained contractions is equally important since the slow twitch endurance PFM fibers are prime contributors to pelvic tone and pelvic support of the urethra, which promote urinary continence.

Perform the following: 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly; with each successive week try to step up the PFM contraction intensity as well as the activation speed (how long it takes to get to peak intensity); allot equal time to relaxing phase as contracting phase.

Week 1: snaps x20; 5 second shorts x15; 10 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

Week 2: snaps x30; 5 second shorts x20; 10 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

Week 3: snaps x40; 5 second shorts x25; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

Week 4: snaps x50; 5 second shorts x30; 10 second sustained x4 = 1 set 

Week 5 and on: Advance to resistance training.  However, if you were severely challenged by this non-resistance program or cannot or prefer not to use resistance—which requires the placement of a device in your vagina—you can continue this as a “maintenance” program, which consists of the Week 4 regimen performed twice weekly (as opposed to every other day).

PFMT for OAB and Urinary/Bowel Incontinence

Focusing on high-intensity pulses of the PFM (snaps) will benefit the fast twitch explosive fibers that are critical for inhibiting urinary and bowel urgency/urgency incontinence. These snaps will generate increased PFM strength and power to enhance the inhibitory reflex between PFM and the bladder/bowel, permitting a speedy reaction to urgency and facilitating the means to counteract urinary and bowel urgency, frequency and incontinence. Of equal importance is endurance training of the slow twitch, fatigue-resistant fibers that contribute to baseline tone of the voluntary urinary and bowel sphincters.

Perform the following: 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly; with each successive week try to step up the intensity of the PFM contractions; allot equal time to relaxing phase as contracting phase.

Week 1: snaps x20; 2-5 second shorts x15; 10 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

Week 2: snaps x30; 2-5 second shorts x20; 10 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

Week 3: snaps x40; 2-5 second shorts x25; 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

Week 4: snaps x50; 2-5 second shorts x30; 10 second sustained x4 = 1 set 

Week 5 and on: Advance to resistance training.  However, if you were severely challenged by this non-resistance program or cannot/prefer not to use resistance (which requires the placement of a device in your vagina), you can continue using this as a “maintenance” program, which will consist of the Week 4 regimen performed twice weekly (as opposed to every other day).

PFMT for Pelvic Pain Due to Tension Myalgia: “Reverse” PFMT

Focusing on the relaxing aspect of the PFM contraction/relaxation cycle is the key to “down-train” the PFM from their over-tensioned, knot-like state. Those with over-contracted and over-toned PFM will not benefit from the typical strengthening PFMT done for most PFM dysfunctions—and can actually worsen their condition—so the emphasis here is on the relaxation phase of the PFM. This is “reverse” PFMT, conscious unclenching of the PFM in which the PFM drop and slacken as opposed to rise and contract. Reverse PFMT strives to stretch, relax, lengthen and increase the flexibility of the PFM. 

“Reverse” Kegels can be a confusing and difficult concept, particularly because these exercises demand conscious relaxation of the PFM, which only occurs subconsciously in real life. Recall that the PFM have a baseline level of tone and that complete PFM relaxation only occurs at the time of urination, bowel movements, passing gas or childbirth. 

To make this easier to understand, think of a PFM contraction on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being complete relaxation and 10 being maximal contraction. I have arbitrarily chosen 2 as the baseline level of PFM tone.  In reverse Kegel exercises you strive to go from 2 to 0 as opposed to standard exercises in which the effort is to go from 2 to 10.  When you urinate, move your bowels or pass gas, the PFM relax to a level of 0, so this is the feeling that you should strive to replicate, while continuing to breathe regularly without straining or pushing.  A deep exhalation of air will facilitate PFM relaxation, as it does for other muscle groups.

Perform the following: A very gentle PFM contraction to initiate PFM engagement, followed by deep relaxation and release of the PFM lasting as long as the contraction; 3 sets; one-minute break between each set; do 3-4 times weekly.

Week 1: reverse snaps x20; reverse 2-5 shorts x15; reverse 10 second sustained x1 = 1 set 

Week 2: reverse snaps x30; reverse 2-5 shorts x20; reverse 10 second sustained x2 = 1 set 

Week 3: reverse snaps x40; reverse 2-5 shorts x25; reverse 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

Week 4: reverse snaps x50; reverse 2-5 shorts x30; reverse 10 second sustained x3 = 1 set 

Week 5 and on: There is no role for using resistance exercises for tension myalgia. Continue using this program as a “maintenance” program, consisting of the Week 4 regimen done twice weekly (as opposed to every other day). Make a concerted effort at keeping the PFM relaxed at all times, not just while pursuing the PFMT program.

…To be continued.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (the female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 3

February 17, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD   2/17/2018

What follows in this and the next few blog entries are pelvic training programs that I have crafted based on my specialized training in pelvic medicine and surgery; clinical experience; and interactions with physical therapists, exercise/fitness experts, Pilates instructors, yoga instructors and most importantly, my patients. Programs have been designed to treat areas of pelvic floor muscle weakness, e.g., if strength is the issue, emphasis on strength training is in order, whereas if  pelvic stamina is the issue, focus on endurance training is appropriate.

There are few, if any, pelvic programs in existence that are designed for specific pelvic floor dysfunctions, as what is generally out there is a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  I have created “tailored” PFMT exercise routines, customized for the particular pelvic health issue at hand, including stress urinary incontinence (SUI), overactive bladder (OAB), pelvic organ prolapse (POP), sexual/orgasm issues and pelvic pain.

Program Flexibility

These programs are not designed with the intent that they be rigidly adhered to, as they can be customized to make them work for you, recognizing that every woman and every pelvic floor is unique. You can modify the programs and experiment with all variables—intensity, power, contraction and relaxation duration, number of reps and number of sets, with the ultimate objective of challenging the pelvic muscles to make them stronger, better toned, firmer, more flexible and healthier.

Do what feels right and works for you, building to your maximal potential over time. If you feel fatigued before completing the number of reps recommended, do as many quality contractions as you can do.  If you cannot maintain contraction intensity for the duration recommended, do the best you can. Three sets per session are ideal, but if you find this too challenging, you can do two sets, or even just one. If you find that completing 3 sets becomes a simple task, you can do 4 or 5 sets as your PFM become stronger and more durable.

The 3 Types of Pelvic Floor Muscle Contractions

There are three basic types of PFM contractions based upon the duration and intensity of the contraction.  Three “S” words make these contractions easy to remember: Snaps, Shorts and Sustained.

Snaps are rapid, high intensity pulses of the PFM that take less than one second per cycle of contracting and relaxing. These are the type of PFM contractions that occur involuntarily at the time of sexual climax, so should be easy to understand and perform.

Shorts are slower, less intense squeezes of the PFM that can last anywhere from two to five seconds (with equal time allotted to the relaxing phase).

Sustained PFM contractions are less intense squeezes that last ten seconds or longer (with an equal time in the relaxing phase).  These are the type of PFM contractions that you use when you have a strong desire to urinate or move your bowels but do not have access to a bathroom and must apply effort to “hold it in.”

Warming Up

Before starting the PFMT program, I recommend a warm-up week to practice and become familiar with snaps, shorts and sustained contractions. Do not start the formal PFMT until you feel comfortable with all three contractions. Do the Oxford strength and endurance testing to obtain baseline values before you begin the warm-up week.

If your Oxford grade is 0-2, consider yourself to have weak PFM. If you cannot do more than 20 snaps, 15 shorts or one-10 second sustained contraction, consider your endurance poor. If your PFM strength is good, but your endurance is poor, use the program tailored for poor endurance. If you have a specific pelvic dysfunction that you would like to focus on improving, use the program tailored to that specific dysfunction. If you suffer with more than one pelvic floor dysfunction, e.g., both pelvic organ prolapse  and stress urinary incontinence, determine which issue is most compelling and disturbing to you and start with that specific program. If you feel that the problems are equal in degree, complete one program followed in succession by the other.

Warm-Up Week: Do as many good quality snaps as possible until you feel that you can no longer do them with full intensity.  Take a short break and then do as many good quality shorts until you feel that your efforts are diminishing.  Finally, do a sustained contraction for as long as you can until fatigue sets in. After a short break, repeat the sustained contraction.  Do this warm-up every other day for this preliminary week before proceeding with the programs.

…To be continued in 2 weeks.  Next week’s entry will take a break from PFM training to cover “When Sex Hurts and Pain Replaces Pleasure.”

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (the female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 2

February 10, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD    2/10/18

This is a continuation of last week’s entry.  Remember, PFMT is equally appropriate for males as well as females –both genders have these important muscles that can benefit from whipping them into shape.

3 screw icon square

 

The basic PFMT programs that follow are “low tech” exercises of the PFM without added resistance.  They can be thought of as PFMT 101, the goal of which is to provide the foundation for pelvic muscle proficiency. After mastery of basic PFMT, progression to the next phase of conditioning—resistance training—is in order.

PFMT is the essence of “functional fitness,” exercises that develop PFM strength, power, stamina and the skillset that can be used to improve and/or prevent specific pelvic functional impairments. PFMT regimens must be flexible and nuanced, designed and customized with particular functional needs in mind, i.e., issues of pelvic support, urinary control, sexual function, pain, etc., as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.  An additional consideration is baseline PFM strength and stamina.  After determining an area of weakness, focused effort should be applied to this deficit.

Time to Begin

You do not need to go to a gym, wear athletic clothing, have any special equipment, or dedicate a great deal of time to PFMT. It is vital to do properly performed, quality PFM contractions with the goal of slow and steady progress. Experiencing some aching and soreness as you begin is not uncommon.

If you are pursuing PFMT for specific pelvic issues, expect that it may take a number of weeks or more to see an improvement in your symptoms.  After you have noticed a beneficial effect, the exercise regimen must be maintained, because regression can occur if the pelvic muscles are not consistently exercised…”use it or lose it” applies here.

Basic PFMT exercises can be performed lying down, sitting upright in a comfortable chair with your back straight, or standing. It is best to begin lying down, to minimize gravity, which makes the exercises more challenging. Regardless of position, it is essential to maintain good form, posture and body alignment while doing PFMT. It is important to relax your abdomen, buttocks and thighs. Breathe slowly and do not hold your breath. Even though no muscle group works alone, by trying to isolate the PFM and focusing on squeezing only the PFM, you will make more rapid progress. You should not be grimacing, grunting or sweating, as PFMT is, in part, a meditative pursuit that employs awareness, focus, mindfulness and intention while performing deliberate contractions of the PFM.

Helpful metaphor: “Snap” describes a brief, vigorous, well-executed contraction of the PFM. With increasing PFM command, these pelvic muscles can be “snapped” like your fingers.

There are six variables with respect to PFM contractions:

  1. contraction intensity
  2. contraction duration
  3. relaxation duration
  4. power
  5. repetitions
  6. sets

Contraction intensity refers to the extent that the PFM are squeezed, ranging from a weak flick of the muscles to a robust and vigorous contraction. The contraction duration is the amount of time that the squeeze is sustained, ranging from a “snap”—a rapid pulsing of the PFM, to a “sustained hold”—a long duration contraction. The relaxation duration is the amount of time the PFM are unclenched until the next contraction is performed. Power is a measure of contraction strength and speed, the ability to rapidly achieve a full intensity contraction. Repetitions (reps) are the number of contractions performed in a single set (one unit of exercise).

It is relatively easy to intensively contract your PFM for a brief period, but difficult to maintain that intensity for a longer duration contraction. It is unlikely that you will be able to maintain the intensity of contraction of a sustained hold as you would for a snap.

The better PFMT regimens utilize a combination of snaps, few-second contractions and sustained duration contractions to reap the benefits of both strength and endurance training.

Fact: Short duration, high intensity contractions build strength and power, whereas longer duration, less intense contractions will build endurance, both vital elements of fit PFM.

Incremental change—the gradual and progressive increase in the intensity of contraction, duration of contraction, number of reps and number of sets performed—is the goal.  Performing the program 3-4 times weekly is desirable since recovery days are important for skeletal muscles.

PFMT is not an extreme program; nonetheless, it is by no means an undemanding program, and certainly requires effort and perseverance.  Depending on your level of baseline PFM fitness, you may find the exercises anywhere in the range from relatively easy to quite challenging. Your PFM are unique in terms of their shape, size and strength and consequently expectations regarding results will vary from individual to individual.

After a month or so, you should be on your way to achieving basic conditioning of the PFM. Reassessing the PFM by repeating the Oxford grading and the PFM endurance tests that you measured at baseline should demonstrate objective evidence of progress. More importantly, you should start noticing subjective improvement in many of the domains that PFM fitness can influence.  Once you have mastered non-resistance training, it is time to move on to resistance training, in which you squeeze your PFM against the opposing force of resistance in an effort to accelerate the PFMT.

If you are challenged by the non-resistance PFMT or cannot or prefer not to use resistance—which for women requires the placement of a device in your vagina and for men the ability to achieve a rigid erection—you can continue with the non-resistance training using it as a “maintenance” program.  PFM maintenance training typically requires continuing with the PFMT program, but performing it less frequently, twice weekly usually being sufficient.

To be continued next week…

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Part 1

February 3, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  2/3/18

I received intensive exposure to surgical aspects of pelvic health at UCLA School of Medicine, where I spent a year training in pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery following completion of my urology residency at University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This background, coupled with my passion for health, fitness and the benefits of exercise, led to my interest in PFMT as a means of optimizing pelvic health and to avoid, or at times facilitate, surgical management of pelvic floor dysfunctions.  Is it traditional for a pelvic surgeon to espouse non-surgical treatments?  Not at all, but after decades in the urology/gynecology “trenches,” I have concluded that PFMT is a vastly unexploited resource that offers significant benefits.

Photo below: Yours truly on left with Dr. Shlomo Raz (UCLA professor who is “father” of female urology) on right (1988)

shlomo and andy

 

“Strength training improves muscle vitality and function.” These seven words embody a key principle of exercise physiology that is applicable to the PFM.

Introduction

There is little to no consensus regarding the nuances and details of PFMT programs.  There is no agreement on the best position in which to do PFMT; the number of sets to perform; the number of repetitions per set; the intensity of PFM contractions; the duration of PFM contractions; the duration of PFM relaxation; and how often to do PFMT. The particulars of many PFMT routines are arbitrary at best. In fact, Campbell’s Urology—the premier textbook—concludes: “No PFMT regimen has been proven most effective and treatment should be based on the exercise physiology literature.”  

My goal is to take the arbitrary out of PFMT, providing thoughtfully designed, specifically tailored programs crafted in accordance with Dr. Arnold Kegel’s precepts, exercise physiology principles and practical concepts.

Dr. Kegel’s precepts are summarized as follows:

  • Muscle education
  • Feedback
  • Progressive intensity
  • Resistance

Exercise physiology principles as applied to PFMT include the following (note that there is some overlap with Dr. Kegel’s precepts and practical concepts):

  • Adaptation: The process by which muscle growth occurs in response to the demands placed upon the PFM, with adaptive change in proportion to the effort put into the exercises.
  • Progression: The necessity for more challenging exercises in order to continue the process of adaptive change that occurs as “new normal” levels of PFM fitness are established. This translates into slowly and gradually increasing contraction intensity, duration of contractions, number of PFM repetitions and number of sets.
  • Distinguishing strength, power and endurance training: Strength is the maximum amount of force that a muscle can exert; power is a measure of this strength factoring in speed, i.e., a measure of how quickly strength can be expressed. Endurance or stamina is the ability to sustain a PFM contraction for a prolonged time and the ability to perform multiple contractions before fatigue sets in. High intensity PFM contractions build muscle strength, whereas less intensive but more sustained contractions build endurance. Power is fostered by rapidly and explosively contracting the PFM.
  • “Use it or lose it”: The “plasticity” of the PFM—the adaptation in response to the specific demands placed on the muscles—requires continued training, at minimum a “maintenance” program after completion of a course of PFMT.
  • Full range of motion: The goal of PFMT is not only to increase strength, power and endurance, but also flexibility. This is accomplished by bringing the muscle through the full range of motion, which at one extreme is full contraction (muscle shortening), and at the other, complete relaxation (muscle lengthening). The exception to this is for muscles that are already over-tensioned, which need to be relaxed through muscle lengthening exercises.

Practical concepts encompass the following:

  • Initially training the PFM in positions that remove gravity from the picture, then advancing to positions that incorporate gravity.
  • Beginning with the simplest, easiest, briefest PFM contractions, then proceeding with the more challenging, longer duration contractions.
  • Slowly and gradually increasing exercise intensity and degree of difficulty.
  • Aligning the specific pelvic floor dysfunction with the appropriate training program that focuses on improving the area of weakness, since each pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with specific deficits in strength, power and/or endurance.

To be continued….

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.

Dr. Siegel is co-creator of the male pelvic floor exercise instructional DVD (the female version is in the works): PelvicRx

 

 

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)—Gun and Bullet Analogy

November 18, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   11/18/17

With all the violence and senseless shootings in the USA, I hate to even mention the words “guns” and “bullets,” but they do offer a convenient metaphor to better understand the concept of stress urinary incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a spurt-like leakage of urine at the time of a sudden increase in abdominal pressure, such as occurs with sneezing, coughing, jumping, bending and exercising. It is particularly likely to occur when upright and active as opposed to when sitting or lying down, because of the effect of gravity and the particular anatomy of the bladder and urethra. It is common in women following vaginal childbirth, particularly after difficult and prolonged deliveries.  It also can occur in men, generally after prostate surgery for prostate cancer and sometimes after surgical procedures done for benign prostate enlargement. 7. SUIIllustration above by Ashley Halsey from The Kegel Fix

Although not a serious issue like heart disease, cancer, etc., SUI nonetheless can be debilitating, requiring the use of protective pads and often necessitating activity limitations and restrictions of fluid intake in an effort to help manage the problem. It  certainly can impair one’s quality of life.

The root cause of SUI is typically a combination of factors causing damage to the bladder neck and urethra or their support mechanisms.  In females, pelvic birth trauma as well as aging, weight gain, chronic straining and menopausal changes weaken the pelvic muscular and connective tissue support.  In males this can occur after radical prostatectomy, although fortunately with improved techniques and the robotic-assisted laparoscopic  approach, this happens much less frequently than it did in prior years.

An effective means of understanding SUI is to view a bladder x-ray (done in standing upright position) of a person without SUI and compare it to a woman or man with SUI.  The bladder x-ray is performed by instilling contrast into the urinary bladder via a small catheter inserted into the urethra.

A healthy bladder appears oval in shape because the bladder neck (situated at the junction of the bladder and urethra) is competent and closed at all times except when urinating, at which time it relaxes and opens to provide urine flow.  An x-ray of the bladder of a woman or man with SUI will appear oval except for the 6:00 position (the bladder neck) where a small triangle of contrast is present (representing contrast within the bladder neck).  This appears as a “funnel” or a “widow’s peak.” With coughing or straining, there is progressive funneling and leakage.

normal bladder

Above photo is normal oval shape of contrast-filled bladder of person without SUI

female sui relaxAbove photo is typical funneled shape of contrast-filled bladder of female with SUI

male suiAbove photo is typical funneled shape of contrast-filled bladder of male with SUI following a prostatectomy

female sui strainAbove photo shows progressive funneling and urinary leakage in female asked to cough, demonstrating SUI 

 

The presence of urine within the bladder neck region is analogous to a bullet loaded within the chamber of a gun.  Essentially the bladder is “loaded,” ready to fire at any time when there is a sudden increase in abdominal pressure, which creates a vector of force analogous to firing the gun.

What to do about SUI?

Conservative management options include pelvic floor muscle training to increase the strength and endurance of the muscles that contribute to bladder and urethra support and urinary sphincter control.  Surgical management includes sling procedures (tape-like material surgically implanted under the urethra) to provide sufficient support and compression.  Sling procedures are available to treat SUI in both women and men.  An alternative is urethral bulking agents, injections of materials to bulk up and help close the leaky urethra. On occasion, when the bladder neck is rendered incompetent  resulting in severe urinary incontinence, implantation of an artificial urinary sphincter may be required to cure or vastly improve the problem.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community.

Dr. Siegel has authored the following books that are available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Nook and Kobo:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

PROMISCUOUS EATING: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

Cover

These books are written for educated and discerning men and women who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling confident and strong.