Posts Tagged ‘pelvic floor muscles’

How Strong Are Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?

September 9, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  9/9/17

Note: Although the image below is that of a woman who has likely has a strong pelvic floor, this entry is equally relevant for both women and men. 

Mr-yoga-leg-extended-bridge-pose

Attribution of above image: By Mr. Yoga (http://mryoga.com/) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Pelvic Floor Muscles in Men and Women (really not so different)

1116_Muscle_of_the_Perineum

Attribution of above image: By OpenStax [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A Few Questions & Answers About the PFM

Q. Why should you give a hoot about your PFM?                               

A. PFM integrity, strength and endurance are vital for optimal sexual, urinary, and bowel function in both females and males. If you don’t think bladder/intestinal control, pelvic organ support or sex is important, don’t bother to read on!

Q. Why do your PFM weaken?                                                                                  

A. The PFM lose strength with aging, obesity and not using them (disuse atrophy).  Their integrity is deeply impacted by pregnancy, labor and delivery in females and pelvic surgery (radical prostatectomy, colon/rectum operations, etc.) in males.

Q.  How can your PFM be strengthened?                                                                        

A. Like any skeletal muscles, the PFM can be strengthened through targeted exercise.

Q. What are important parameters of PFM function?

A. Strength at rest and with actively contracting the PFM; ability to voluntarily relax the PFM; endurance (ability to sustain a PFM contraction before fatigue sets in); and repeatability (the number of times a PFM contraction can be performed before fatigue sets in).

Q.  How is PFM strength tested?  

A. There are many ways to assess PFM strength.  Some clues as to female PFM strength are a snug and firm vagina with no urinary control issues, dropped pelvic organs or sexual problems. Some clues as to male PFM strength are good quality erections and ejaculation and no dribbling of urine after completing urinating. The ability to briskly lift up the erect penis (while in the standing position) when contracting the PFM is a sign of PFM strength. 

Other means of assessing PFM strength are the following:

1. Visual Inspection: Observe the perineum (area between anus and scrotum/vagina) prior to and during the PFM contraction.  The perineum should lift upwards and inwards and the anus should contract (anal wink). 

2. Vaginal (or Anal) Palpation: Place a finger in the vagina or anus, contract the PFM and subjective judge PFM strength using the Oxford scale (0-5). 0: no contraction; 1: flicker; 2: weak; 3: moderate;  4: good; 5: strong 

3. Perineometry: A pressure-measuring probe is placed in the vagina or rectum.  The device registers the squeeze pressure on the probe during a PFM contraction.

4. Electromyography: Patch electrodes (that resemble EKG electrodes) are placed on the  perineum. A recording of electrical activity generated by PFM contractions is made.

5. Dynamometry: A cylindrical steel tube that measures compressive strength is placed in the vagina or rectum. The device registers the squeeze pressure on the load cell built into the steel tube.

6. Ultrasound: Sound wave technology images the perineum and PFM during an active contraction.

Bottom Line:  Unlike the external, mirror-appealing muscles, the PFM are humble muscles that are shrouded in secrecy,  unseen and behind the scenes and often unrecognized and misunderstood. Their mysterious powers straddle the gamut of being vital for what may be considered the most pleasurable and sublime of human pursuits—sex—but equally integral to what may be considered the least refined of human activities—bowel and bladder function. Because they are out of sight and out of mind, they are often neglected. However, there is great merit in exercising important hidden muscles, including the heart, diaphragm and PFM. Although they are not the muscles of “glamour,” the PFM are the muscles of “amour” and merit the respect that is accorded the external glamour muscles of the body. 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in dire need of bridging.

For more information on the pelvic floor muscles and how to properly condition them, please consult the following books by the author:

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

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

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Sex And The Female Pelvic Floor Muscles

July 15, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   7/15/17

The vagina and clitoris are the stars of the show, but the pelvic floor muscles are the behind-the-scenes “powerhouse” of these structures. The relationship between the pelvic muscles and the female sexual organs is similar to that between the diaphragm muscle and the lungs, the lungs as dependent upon the diaphragm for their proper functioning as the vagina and clitoris are on the pelvic muscles for their proper functioning.  The bottom line is that keeping the pelvic muscles fit and vital will not only optimize sexual function and pleasure, but will also benefit urinary, bowel and pelvic support issues as well as help prevent their onset. 15606-illustrated-silhouette-of-a-beautiful-woman-or

Image above, public domain

Size Matters

While penis size is a matter of concern to many, why is vaginal size so much less of an issue?  The reason is that penises are external and visible and vaginas internal and hidden. The average erect penis is 6 inches in length and the average vagina 4 inches in depth, implying that the average man is more than ample for the average woman. The width of the average erect penis is 1.5 inches and the width of the average vaginal opening is virtually zero inches since the vagina is a potential space with the walls touching each other at rest. However, the vagina is a highly accommodative organ that can stretch, expand and adapt to the extent that 10 pound babies can be delivered vaginally (ouch!).

More important than size is the strength and tone of the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles. Possessing well-developed and fit vaginal and pelvic floor muscles is an asset in the bedroom, not only capable of maximizing your own pleasure, but also effective in optimally gripping and “milking” a penis to climax.  Additionally, when partner erectile dysfunction issues exist, strong pelvic floor muscles can help compensate as they can resurrect (great word!) a penis that is becoming flaccid back to full rigidity.

Female Sexuality

Sex is a basic human need and a powerful means of connecting and bonding, central to the intimacy of interpersonal relationships, contributing to wellbeing and quality of life. Healthy sexual functioning is a vital part of general, physical, mental, social and emotional health.

Female sexuality is a complex and dynamic process involving the interplay of anatomical, physiological, hormonal, psychological, emotional and cultural factors that impact desire, arousal, lubrication and climax. Although desire is biologically driven based upon internal hormonal environment, many psychological and emotional factors play into it as well. Arousal requires erotic and/or physical stimulation that results in increased pelvic blood flow, which causes genital engorgement, vaginal lubrication and vaginal anatomical changes that allow the vagina to accommodate an erect penis. The ability to climax depends on the occurrence of a sequence of physiological and emotional responses, culminating in involuntary rhythmic contractions of the pelvic floor muscles.

Sexual research conducted by Masters and Johnson demonstrated that the primary reaction to sexual stimulation is vaso-congestion (increased blood flow) and the secondary reaction is increased muscle tension.  Orgasm is the release from the state of vaso-congestion and muscle tension.

Pelvic Muscle Strength Matters

Strong and fit pelvic muscles optimize sexual function since they play a pivotal role in sexuality. These muscles are highly responsive to sexual stimulation, reacting by contracting and increasing blood flow to the pelvis, thus enhancing arousal.  They also contribute to sensation during intercourse and provide the ability to clench the vagina and firmly “grip” the penis. Upon clitoral stimulation, the pelvic muscles reflexively contract.  When the pelvic muscles are voluntarily engaged, pelvic blood flow and sexual response are further intensified.

The strength and durability of pelvic contractions are directly related to orgasmic potential since the pelvic muscles are the “motor” that drives sexual climax. During orgasm, the pelvic muscles contract involuntarily in a rhythmic fashion and provide the muscle power behind the physical aspect of an orgasm. Women capable of achieving “seismic” orgasms most often have very strong, toned, supple and flexible pelvic muscles. The take home message is that the pleasurable sensation that you perceive during sex is directly related to pelvic muscle function. Supple and pliable pelvic muscles with trampoline-like tone are capable of a “pulling up and in” action that puts bounce into your sex life…and that of your partner!

Factoid:  “Pompoir” is the Tamil, Indian term applied to extreme pelvic muscle control over the vagina. With both partners remaining still, the penis is stroked by rhythmic and rippling pulsations of the pelvic muscles. “Kabbazah” is a parallel South Asian term—translated as “holder”—used to describe a woman with such pelvic floor muscle proficiency.  

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

As sexual function is optimized when the pelvic floor muscles are working properly, so sexual function can be compromised when the pelvic floor muscles are not working up to par (pelvic floor muscle “dysfunction”).  Weakened pelvic muscles can cause sexual dysfunction and vaginal laxity (looseness), undermining sensation for the female and her partner. On the other hand, overly-tensioned pelvic muscles can also compromise sexual function because sexual intercourse can be painful, if not impossible, when the pelvic muscles are too taut.

Vaginal childbirth is one of the key culprits in causing weakened and stretched pelvic muscles, leading to loss of vaginal tone, diminished sensation with sexual stimulation and impaired ability to tighten the vagina.

Pelvic organ prolapse—a form of pelvic floor dysfunction in which one or more of the pelvic organs fall into the vaginal space and at times beyond the vaginal opening—can reduce sexual gratification on a mechanical basis from vaginal laxity and uncomfortable or painful intercourse. The body image issues that result from vaginal laxity and pelvic prolapse are profound and may be the most important factors that diminish one’s sex life. As the pelvic floor loses strength and tone, there is often an accompanying loss of sexual confidence.

Urinary incontinence—a form of pelvic floor dysfunction in which there is urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing and physical activities (stress incontinence) or leakage associated with the strong urge to urinate (urgency incontinence or overactive bladder)—can also contribute to an unsatisfying sex life because of fears of leakage during intercourse, concerns about odor and not feeling clean, embarrassment about the need for pads, and a negative body image perception. This can adversely influence sex drive, arousal and ability to orgasm.

A healthy sexual response involves being “in the moment,” free of concerns and worries. Women with pelvic floor dysfunction are often distracted during sex, preoccupied with their lack of control over their problem as well as their perception of their vagina being “abnormal” and what consequences this might have on their partner’s sexual experience.

Pelvic Floor Training

Pelvic floor muscle training is the essence of “functional fitness,” a workout program that develops pelvic muscle strength, power and stamina. The goal is to improve and/or prevent specific pelvic functional impairments that may be sexual, urinary, bowel, or involve altered support of the pelvic organs.

Many women exercise regularly but often neglect these hidden–but vitally important muscles– that can be optimized to great benefit via the right exercise regimen.  The key is to find the proper program, and for this I refer you to your source for everything Kegel: The KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

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

 

How High Is Your V.I.Q. (Vaginal Intelligence Quotient)?

June 17, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  6/17/2017

You may know your I.Q., but do you know your V.I.Q.?  Let’s begin with a test of your knowledge of lady parts and determine your “Vaginal Intelligence Quotient” or V.I.Q.  See how many of 8 female genital structures you can properly identify. Answers are at end of this blog entry.  Note that there is one anatomical part that virtually no one gets right.  (Thank you Michael Ferig, Wikipedia Commons).

vulva_hymen_miguelferig

 

The Female Nether Parts

The female nether parts are a mystery zone to a surprising number of women, who often have limited knowledge of the inner workings of their own genital anatomy. Many falsely believe that the “pee hole” and “vagina hole” are one and the same. The truth is that the terrain between a female’s thighs is more complicated than one would think…. three openings, two sets of lips, mounds, swellings, glands, erectile tissues and very specialized muscles. While female anatomy may be mysterious to many women, many men are downright clueless and would be well served to learn some basic anatomy. Learn lady parts…knowledge is power!

“The vagina is a place of procreative darkness, a sinister place from which blood periodically seeps as if from a wound.”

“Even when made safe, men feared the vagina, already attributed mysterious sexual power – did it not conjure up a man’s organ, absorb it, milk it, spit it out limp?”

–Tom Hickman from “God’s Doodle”

The names of several lady parts begin with the letter “V”—vulva, vagina and vestibule. What could be a better choice since the area (the vulva) is V-shaped?

pixabay-v

Thank you Pixabay for image above

The Vulva 

The vulva is the outside part of the female genitals. It consists of the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, vestibule, vaginal opening, urethral opening and clitoris.

The mons is the triangular mound that covers the pubic bone, consisting of hair-bearing skin and underlying fatty tissue. It extends down on each side to form the labia majora, folds of hair-bearing skin and underlying fatty tissue that surround the entrance to the vagina. Within the labia majora are two soft, hairless skin folds known as labia minora, which safeguard the entrance to the vagina. The upper part of each labia minora unites to form the clitoral hood (prepuce or foreskin) at the upper part of the clitoris and the frenulum (a small band of tissue that secures the clitoral head to the hood) at the underside of the clitoris.

Figure_28_02_02

(Anatomy of the vulva and the clitoris by OpenStax College – Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Web site. http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30148635, no changes made to original)

The Vestibule

The vestibule is the “entryway,” an area located between the inner lips that contains the entrances to the vagina and the urethra. Urine exits from the urethral opening on the vestibule and not from the vaginal opening. There is a small amount of vestibule tissue that separates the urethral opening from the vaginal opening.

 The Vagina

The word “vagina” intelligently derives from the Latin word for “sheath,” a cover for the blade of a knife or sword. Most women (and men) falsely think of the vagina as the external female genitals. The external lady parts are the VULVA as opposed to the VAGINA, which is internal.

 The Clitoris

The word clitoris derives from the Greek “kleitoris,” meaning “little hill.” The clitoris is uniquely an erectile organ that has as its express purpose sexual function, as opposed to the penis, which is a “multi-tasking” sexual, urinary and reproductive organ. The clitoris is the center of female sensual focus and is the most sensitive erogenous zone of the body, playing a vital role in sensation and orgasm. If an orgasm can be thought of as an “earthquake,” the clitoris can be thought of as the “epicenter.” The head of the clitoris, typically only the size of a pea, is a dense bundle of sensory nerve fibers thought to have greater nerve density than any other body part.

Like the penis, the clitoris is composed of an external visible part and an internal, deeper, invisible part. The inner part is known as the crura (legs), which are shaped like a wishbone with each side attached to the pubic arch as it descends and diverges. The visible part is located above the opening of the urethra, near the junction point of the inner lips. Similar to the penis, the clitoris has a glans (head), a shaft (body) and is covered by a hood of tissue that is the female equivalent of the prepuce (foreskin).  The glans is extremely sensitive to direct stimulation.

The shaft and crura contain erectile tissue, consisting of spongy sinuses that become engorged with blood at the time of sexual stimulation, resulting in clitoral engorgement and erection. The clitoral bulbs are additional erectile tissues that are sac-shaped and are situated between the crura. With sexual stimulation, they become full, plumping and tightening the vaginal opening. The crura and bulbs can be thought of as the roots of a tree, hidden from view and extending deeply below the surface, yet fundamental to the support and function of the clitoral shaft and clitoral glans above, which can be thought of as the trunk of a tree.

When the clitoris is stimulated, the shaft expands with accompanying swelling of the glans. With increasing stimulation, clitoral retraction occurs, in which the clitoral shaft and glans withdraw from their overhanging position, pulling inwards against the pubic bone.

The clitoris is a subtle and mysterious organ, a curiosity to many women and men alike. It is similar to the penis in that it becomes engorged when stimulated and because of its concentration of nerve fibers, is the site where most orgasms are triggered. Clitorises, like penises, come in all different sizes and shapes. In fact, a large clitoris does not appear much different from a small penis. The average length of the clitoral shaft including the glans is 0.8 inches (range of 0.2-1.4 inches). The average width of the clitoral glans is 0.2 inches (range of 0.1-0.4 inches).

The clitoris becomes engorged and erect during sexual stimulation. Two of the pelvic floor muscles—the bulbocavernosus (BC) and ischiocavernosus (IC)—engage and contract and compress the deep internal portions of the clitoris, maintaining blood pressures within the clitoral erection chambers to levels that are significantly higher than systemic blood pressures.

The bulbocavernosus reflex is a contraction of the BC and IC muscles (and other pelvic floor muscles including the anal sphincter) that occurs when the clitoris is stimulated. This reflex is important for maintaining clitoral rigidity, since with each contraction of the BC and IC muscles there is a surge of blood flow to the clitoris, perpetuating clitoral engorgement and erection.

 

vulva_hymen_miguelferig

Thank you Michael Ferig, Wikipedia Commons, for illustration above

Answers to Anatomy Quiz:

LM: labia majora (outer lips); VV: vaginal vestibule; Lm: labia minora (inner lips);  C: clitoris; U: urethra (urinary channel); V: vagina; H: hymenal ring (remnant of membrane that partially covered vaginal opening); A: anus (butthole)

Your V.I.Q.:

0 correct:  Vaginally feeble

1-2 correct: Vaginally deficient

3-4 correct: Vaginally average

5-6 correct: Vaginally superior

7 correct: Vaginally gifted

8 correct: Vaginal Genius…as sharp as a seasoned gynecologist!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com (much of the content from today’s entry was excerpted from The Kegel Fix)

So Your Vagina Is Loose: Now What?

June 3, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  6/3/17

After your newborn  has used your vagina as a giant elastic waterslide (and perhaps repeated a few times), you may find that your lady parts are not quite the same.  Obstetrical “trauma” to the nether muscles (genital and pelvic muscles) and stretching of the vaginal opening can lead to permanent changes. Multiple childbirths, large babies, use of forceps for delivery, and age-related changes of the pelvic muscles and connective tissues further compound the issue.  This condition, a.k.a. vaginal laxity, is characterized by the vaginal opening being wider and looser than it should be.

recto copy

Image above of vaginal laxity in patient immediately before vaginal reconstructive surgery: rectocele (blue arrow: rectum pushing up into back wall of vagina), perineal scarring (white arrow: scarring between vagina and anus) and catheter in urethra (red arrow: channel that conducts urine)

Trivia: Leonardo Da Vinci had an interesting take on male and female perspectives: “Woman’s desire is the opposite of that of man.  She wishes the size of the man’s member to be as large as possible, while the man desires the opposite for the woman’s genital parts.”

Vaginal Laxity

Vaginal looseness–sometimes to the point of gaping– is one of the most common physical changes found on pelvic exam following delivery.  This often overlooked, under-reported, under-appreciated, under-treated condition commonly occurs following pregnancy and vaginal delivery.  Not only is it bothersome to the woman dealing with the problem, but it can also lead to body image issues, decreased sexual sensation, less sexual satisfaction (for partner as well) and disturbances in self-esteem.

It is important to distinguish vaginal laxity from pelvic organ prolapse (an internal laxity in which one or more of the pelvic organs –bladder, uterus, rectum–bulge into the vagina and at times beyond the vaginal opening).  The photo above illustrates a woman with both issues.

The vagina of a woman with laxity often cannot properly “accommodate” her partner’s penis, resulting in the vagina “surrounding” the penis rather than firmly “squeezing” it, with the end result being diminished sensation for both partners.  Under normal circumstances, sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation with the clitoral shaft moving rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner vaginal lips, which join together to form the hood of the clitoris.  When the vaginal opening is too wide to permit the penis to put enough traction on the inner vaginal lips, clitoral stimulation is also limited, another factor resulting in less satisfaction in the bedroom.

7 Ways to Know if You Have a Loose Vagina

  1. You cannot keep a tampon in.
  2. During sexual intercourse, your partner’s penis often falls out.
  3. Your vagina fills with water while bathing.
  4. You have vaginal flatulence, passage of air trapped in the vagina.
  5. When examining yourself in the mirror you see the vaginal lips parted and internal tissues exposed (it should be shut like a clam shell).
  6. Sexual intercourse is less satisfying for you and your partner and noticeably different than before childbirth.
  7. You have difficulty experiencing orgasm.

Means of quantitating vaginal laxity and the strength of the pelvic and vaginal muscles that are used by physicians include:

  1. Visual inspection of the vulva, which shows vaginal gaping, exposure of internal tissues and decreased distance from vagina to anus
  2. Pelvic exam while having the patient contract down upon the examiner’s fingers, using the modified Oxford scale of 0-5 (0–very weak pelvic contraction; 5–very strong pelvic contraction)
  3. Manometry, a measurement of resting pressure and pressure rise following a pelvic floor muscle contraction
  4. Dynamometry, a measurement of pelvic muscle resting and contractile forces using strain gauges
  5. Electromyography, recording the electrical potential generated by the depolarization of pelvic floor muscle fibers

On a practical basis, means #1 and #2 are usually more than sufficient to make a diagnosis of vaginal laxity

 Vaginal Laxity:  What to do?

  • Over-the-Counter Herbal Vaginal Tightening Creams: Don’t even bother. These non-regulated products can be harmful and there is no scientific evidence to support their safe and effective use.
  • Kegel Exercises, a.k.a. Pelvic Floor Muscle Training: Worth the bother!  This non-invasive, first-line, self-help form of treatment should be exploited before considering more aggressive means. Increasing the strength, power and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles has the potential for improving vaginal laxity as well as sexual function, urinary and bowel control and pelvic prolapse.
  • Use it or lose it: Stay sexually active to help keep the pelvic and vaginal muscles toned.  Although you might think that sexual intercourse might worsen the problem by further stretching the vagina, in actuality it will help improve the problem and increase vaginal tone.
  • Energy-Based Devices: There are a host of new technologies that are being used for “vaginal rejuvenation” in an office setting. These are typically lasers or units that use targeted radio-frequency energy that are applied to the vaginal tissues. One such device uses mono-polar radio-frequency therapy with surface cooling.  It works by activating fibroblasts (the type of cells that makes fibers involved in our structural framework) to produce new collagen stimulating remodeling of vaginal tissue. The vaginal surface is cooled while heat is delivered to deeper tissues.                                                                                                                                                               Note: The jury is still not out on the effectiveness of these procedures. What is for certain is that they are costly and not covered by medical insurance.  Anecdotally, I have a few patients who claim that they have had significant improvement in vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause after undergoing laser treatment.      
  • Vaginoplasty/Levatorplasty/Perineorrhaphy/Perineoplasty: This is medical speak for the surgical reconstructive procedures that are performed to tighten and narrow the vaginal opening and vaginal “barrel.”  The goal is for improved aesthetic appearance, sexual friction, sexual function and self-esteem. These procedures are often performed along with pelvic reconstructive procedures for pelvic organ prolapse, particularly for a rectocele, a condition in which the rectum prolapses into the bottom vaginal wall.

 The term vaginoplasty derives vagina and plasty meaning “repair.”  The term levatorplasty derives from levator (another name for deep pelvic floor muscles) and plasty meaning “repair.” Perineorrhaphy derives from perineum (the tissues between vagina and anus) and –rrhaphy, meaning “suture,” while the term perineoplasty derives from perineum (the tissues between vagina and anus) and plasty meaning “repair.”

Within the perineum are the superficial pelvic floor muscles (bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus and transverse perineal muscles) and deeper pelvic floor muscles (levator ani).  Perineal muscle laxity is a condition in which the superficial pelvic floor muscles become flabby. Weakness in these muscles cause a widened and loosened vaginal opening, decreased distance between the vagina and anus, and a change in the vaginal axis such that the vagina assumes a more upwards orientation as opposed to its normal downwards angulation towards the sacral bones.

3. superficial and deep PFM

Illustration of pelvic floor muscles by artist Ashley Halsey from “The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health

The surgical reconstructive procedures referred to above narrow the relaxed vaginal opening and vaginal barrel and address cosmetic concerns. The aforementioned muscles are buttressed to rebuild the perineum, resulting in a tighter vaginal opening and vaginal barrel, increased distance from vaginal opening to anus, restoration of the proper vaginal angle and an improvement in cosmetic appearance.

public domain

Illustration above from public domain.  On left is lax vagina with incision made from point A to point B where vagina and perineum meet. On right the superficial pelvic muscles are accessed and ultimately buttressed in the midline, converting the initial horizontal incision to one that is closed vertically.

Marietta S pre-PP

Image above of lax vagina before surgical repair; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission

.Mariette S 6 wk p.o. PP

Image above of lax vagina after surgical repair; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

No Erections Without A Solid Base

May 27, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  5/27/2017  Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

A flagpole needs a solid base of support in order to stand tall and not be felled by the elements.  One that is poorly mounted will falter as soon as the wind picks up or other adverse circumstances surface.  This is analogous to a tree and its root system with no tree able to stand tall and bear the elements without a deep and powerful root system.  In both cases, the hidden, behind-the-scenes support system is equally important to the exposed product.

at20op_-03__topflight-telescoping-20ft-flagpole_1_1.jpg

Flagpole base

Exposed_mango_tree_roots

Exposed roots of a mango tree, by Aaron Escobar [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

…And so it is with the penis. Like the flagpole and the tree that require a solid base of support, the penis also necessitates a sturdy foundation in order to be able to morph into a “proud soldier,” tall and erect in posture.  This foundation also enables the ability to maintain this rigid stability despite exposure to the “elements”– the substantial torquing and buckling forces the penis is subjected to at the time of sexual activity.

* Thank you to Paul Nelson–friend, colleague and president of the Erectile Dysfunction Foundation and launcher of FrankTalk.org–who came up with the clever  flagpole analogy.

What You See is Not What You Get

Half the penis is exposed and half is hidden.  The visible portion of the penis (pendulous penis) is the external half.  The internal half (infrapubic penis) lies under the surface and is known as the penile roots or in medical speak, the crura. Like the roots of a tree or the base of a flagpole responsible for foundational support, the roots of the penis stabilize and support the erect penis so that it stays rigid and skyward-angling with excellent “posture.”  Without functioning penile roots, the penis would remain limp, would dangle in accordance with gravity and have slouching posture at best.

4extintpenis

Illustration above by Christine Vecchione from “Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health”

The penile roots are enveloped by two pelvic floor muscles, the BC (bulbocavernosus) and the IC (ischiocavernosus).  These rigidity muscles compress the roots of the penis, causing backflow of pressurized blood into the penis.  In a sexual situation, these muscles engage and contract, forcing blood within the roots of the penis into the external penis.  Not only is pressurized blood pushed into the external penis promoting rigidity, but also the contractions of these muscles causes the clamping of venous outflow—a tourniquet-like effect—that results in penile high blood pressure and full-fledged rigidity.  These muscles are also responsible for ejaculation—rhythmically compressing the urethra (urinary channel that runs through the penis) at the time of climax to cause the expulsion of semen.

Factoid: It is the BC and IC muscles that are responsible for the ability to lift one’s erect penis up and down (wag the penis) as they are contracted and relaxed.

00001Illustration above by Christine Vecchione from “Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health”

The BC and the IC muscles together with the transverse perineal muscles and the levator muscles are collectively known as the pelvic floor muscles, a muscular hammock located between scrotum and anus  (“inner taint”). Although unseen and behind-the-scenes, hidden from view, these often unrecognized and misunderstood muscles have vital functions in addition to erection and ejaculation, including urinary and bowel control. As part of the core group of muscles, they affect posture, the lower back and the hips.

Take home message: The pelvic floor muscles are the rigidity muscles, necessary for transforming the stimulated penis that becomes plump into a rock-hard penis. When these muscles are not functioning optimally, one loses the potential for full rigidity.

Factoid: An erection—defined in hydraulic terms—is when the penile blood inflow is maximized while outflow is minimized, resulting in an inflated and rigid penis. The pressure in the penis at the time of an erection is sky-high (greater than 200 millimeters), the only organ in the body where high blood pressure is both acceptable and necessary for healthy functioning. This explains why blood pressure pills are the most common medications associated with erectile dysfunction.

Bottom Line: Neither flagpole, tree nor penis can be firmly supported without a solid foundation.  The penile roots and the pelvic floor muscles that surround them are the foundation.  Not only do these muscles support the deep roots of the penis, but they are also responsible for the high penile blood pressures responsible for erectile rigidity and are the motor power underlying ejaculation.  The IC muscle should be known as the “erector muscle” and the BC muscle the “ejaculator muscle.” Although not muscles of glamour, they are certainly muscles of “amour.”

Straddling the gamut of being vital for what may be considered the most pleasurable and refined of human pursuits—sex—they are equally integral to what may be considered the basest of human activities—bowel and bladder function.  These hidden muscles deserve serious respect and are capable of being intensified by training in order to improve and often prevent sexual, urinary and bowel issues. Why not consider exercising your erector and ejaculator muscles, as you do for so many other muscle groups in the body?

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

Co-creator of the PelvicRx male pelvic floor exercise program: http://www.PelvicRx.com

 

 

 

 

 

Rectoceles And Perineal Laxity: What You Need To Know

May 20, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  5/20/17

recto copy

Image above: protrusion of the rectum into the floor of the vagina, a.k.a. rectocele (blue arrow); also note catheter in urethra (red arrow) and gaping vagina with scarring of tissues between vagina and anus, a.k.a. perineum (white arrow)

A rectocele is a specific type of pelvic organ prolapse in which the pelvic floor muscles and connective supporting tissue between the lower vaginal wall and rectum weaken, allowing protrusion of the rectum into the floor of the vagina and at times outside the vaginal opening. This not uncommonly follows vaginal childbirth, which places tremendous stresses on the tissues that provide to support of the pelvic organs. Other risk factors for the occurrence of a rectocele are chronic straining, menopause and weight gain.

Rectoceles are also known by the terms “dropped rectum,” “prolapsed rectum,” and “rectal hernia.” The most common symptom is an annoying vaginal bulge that worsens with assuming the upright position and being active and tends to improve with sitting, lying down and being sedentary. It is often quite noticeable when straining to move one’s bowels. It can give rise to bowel difficulties—most notably what is referred to as “obstructed defecation”—including constipation, incomplete bowel emptying, diarrhea and fecal incontinence. The prolapsed rectum often needs to be manipulated back into position in order to be able to effectively move one’s bowels. Rectoceles can also cause vaginal pressure, vaginal pain and painful sexual intercourse.

Relevant trivia: The word “rectum” derives from the Latin word meaning “straight,” because under normal circumstances the rectum is a straight chute, facilitating bowel movements. The presence of a rectocele causes kinking of the rectum to occur, destroying this anatomical arrangement and making bowel movements difficult without “splinting” the rectum (straightening it out) using one or more fingers placed in the vagina.

Often accompanying a rectocele is laxity of the perineal muscles, a condition in which the superficial pelvic floor muscles (those located in the region between the vagina and anus) become flabby. This causes a widened vaginal opening, decreased distance between the vagina and anus, and a change in the vaginal angle. Women who are sexually active may complain of a loose or gaping vagina. This may lead to difficulty keeping a tampon in position without it falling out, the vagina filling with water while bathing, vaginal flatulence (the embarrassing passage of air) and sexual issues including difficulty retaining the penis with vaginal intercourse and difficulty achieving orgasm. Perineal laxity may result in the vagina “surrounding” the penis rather than firmly “squeezing” it during sexual intercourse, with the end result diminished pleasurable sensation for both partners. The perception of having a loose vagina and altered anatomy can lead to self-esteem and other psychological issues.

Relevant trivia: Under normal circumstances, sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation. The clitoral shaft moves rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner vaginal lips, which join together to form the hood of the clitoris. However, if the vaginal opening is too wide to permit the penis to put enough traction on the inner vaginal lips, there will be limited clitoral stimulation and less satisfaction in the bedroom.

Management of Rectoceles

Rectoceles can be managed conservatively with pelvic floor exercises, behavioral modifications and consideration for using a pessary. Alternatively, surgical treatment, a.k.a. pelvic reconstruction, is often necessary for more extensive rectoceles or for those that do not respond to conservative measures.

Pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) is useful under the circumstances of mild-moderate rectocele, for those who cannot or do not want to have surgery and for those whose minimal symptoms do not warrant more aggressive options. The goal of PFMT is to increase the strength, tone and endurance of the muscles that play a key role in the support of the rectum and perineum. Weak pelvic muscles can undoubtedly be strengthened; however, if there is connective tissue damage, pelvic training will not remedy the injury, but does serve to strengthen the muscles that can help compensate for the connective tissue impairment. If not completely cured with PFMT, the rectocele and perineal laxity can still be improved, and that might be sufficient.  Chapter 5 in The Kegel Fix book  (www.TheKegelFix.com) is devoted to a specific PFMT regimen for rectoceles and other forms of pelvic organ prolapse.  Note that if the pelvic floor muscles are torn or widely separated, PFMT will not be productive until surgical repair is performed.

Another component of conservative management is modification of activities that promote the rectocele (heavy lifting and high impact exercises), management of constipation and other circumstances that increase abdominal pressure, weight loss, smoking cessation and consideration for estrogen hormone replacement, since estrogen replacement can increase tissue integrity and suppleness.

A pessary is a mechanical device that is available in a variety of sizes and shapes and is inserted into the vagina where it acts as a “strut” to help provide pelvic support and keep the rectum in proper position. Pessaries need to be removed periodically in order to clean them. Some are designed to permit sexual intercourse.

Surgery is often necessary in the case of a symptomatic moderate-severe rectocele, particularly when quality of life has been significantly impacted. This type of surgery is most often done vaginally, typically on an outpatient basis. Both the rectocele and the perineal laxity are addressed.  The goal of surgery is restoration of normal anatomy with preservation of vaginal dimensions and improvement in symptoms with optimization of bowel and sexual function.  With improvement of anatomy, function often significantly improves, since function often follows form. Difficulties with evacuation, constipation, straining, incomplete emptying and fecal incontinence should improve, if not resolve. There should no longer be a need to splint the rectum and sexual function (for both patient and partner) should dramatically improve with the rebuilding of the perineum.

Marietta S pre-PP

Pre-operative photo–note gaping vulva, exposed vagina, rectocele and perineal laxity; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission

 

Mariette S 6 wk p.o. PP

Post-operative photo–note closed vulva, unexposed vagina and restored perineum after levatorplasty, vaginoplasty, perineorrhaphy and aesthetic perineoplasty; (c) Michael P Goodman, MD. Used with permission

 

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com  

Much of the content of this entry was excerpted from Dr. Siegel’s The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health (Chapter 5. Pelvic Organ Prolapse)

Pessaries To Treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse: What You Need To Know

April 15, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD    4 /15 /17

A pessary is a vaginal insert that is used to help provide pelvic support in women with vaginal prolapse of the urogenital organs, a.k.a. pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Pessaries are available in a variety of sizes and shapes and when positioned in place within the vagina, function as “struts” to help keep the prolapsing pelvic organ(s) in proper anatomical position. They are ideal for older patients who have medical issues that preclude surgical treatment and for women who opt for non-surgical management.  Pessaries need to be removed periodically in order to clean them.  Some are designed to permit sexual intercourse.

A Few Words on POP

POP is a common condition in which there is weakness of the pelvic muscles and connective tissues that provide pelvic support, allowing one or more of the pelvic organs to move from their normal positions into the potential space of the vaginal canal and, at its most severe degree, outside the vaginal opening. POP is an important issue in women’s health, with an increasing prevalence correlating with extended longevity. Two-thirds of women who have delivered children vaginally have anatomical evidence of POP (although many are not symptomatic) and 10-20% will need to undergo a corrective surgical procedure. The true prevalence of POP is not known because of the large number of women who do not seek medical care for the problem.

POP is not life threatening, but can be a distressing and disruptive problem that negatively impacts quality of life. Despite how common an issue it is, many women are reluctant to seek help because they are too embarrassed to discuss it with anyone or have the misconception that there are no treatment options available or fear that surgery will be the only solution.

POP may involve any pelvic organ including the urinary, intestinal and gynecological tracts. The bladder is the organ that is most commonly involved in POP. POP can vary from minimal descent—causing few, if any, symptoms—to major descent—in which one or more of the pelvic organs prolapse outside the vagina at all times, causing significant symptoms. The degree of descent varies with position and activity level, increasing with the upright position and/or exertion and decreasing with lying down and resting, as is the case for any hernia.

POP can give cause a variety of symptoms, depending on which organ is involved and the extent of the prolapse.  The most common complaints are the following: a vaginal bulge or lump, the perception that one’s insides are falling outside, and vaginal “pressure.”  Because POP often causes vaginal looseness in addition to one or more organs falling into the space of the vaginal canal, sexual complaints are common, including painful intercourse, altered sexual feeling and difficulty achieving orgasm as well as less partner satisfaction.

3 Options to Manage POP

  1. Conservative
  2. Pessaries
  3. Surgery (Pelvic Reconstruction) 

Conservative treatment options for POP include pelvic floor muscle training (for details on pelvic muscle training for POP see http://www.TheKegelFix.com), modification of activities that promote the POP (heavy lifting and high impact exercises), management of constipation and other circumstances that increase abdominal pressure, weight loss, smoking cessation and consideration for hormone replacement, since estrogen replacement can increase tissue integrity and suppleness.

Pessary Basics

A pessary is a non-surgical option for treating POP, used with the goal of improving quality of life, body image, and bladder, bowel and sexual function. Pessaries are made of soft and pliable hypoallergenic plastic or silicone and can successfully alleviate symptoms of POP in 85% of those who use them.  About 50% or so of women who trial pessaries continue to use them for the long term, with discontinuation typically occurring in those who cannot retain the pessary, those experiencing discomfort or pain, those who desire surgery, and those who are incapable of inserting and removing them.

It is important to know that pessaries are not successful in all women with POP.  They tend to fail in women with significantly enlarged vaginal openings, in which case the pessary can fall out with effort and exertion. Factors associated with a higher risk for failure are younger age, obesity, and weak pelvic floor muscles.

For Whom is a Pessary Appropriate?

  • Older women who are not candidates for surgery
  • Anyone who desires non-surgical management of their POP
  • For those who need to delay surgery, wish to defer surgery or simply desire to trial one prior to surgery

1-Pessary Image

Image Above: A Potpourri of Pessaries

What Types of Pessaries Are Available?

For Mild-Moderate POP

The ring pessary (7:00 position of image above) is the simplest and most commonly used pessary that has the least side effects.  It is widely employed because of its ease of insertion, good vaginal fit and allowance for sexual intercourse without removing it.  A variation of the ring pessary is one with central support. The oval pessary is a variation of the ring used in narrow vaginas.  The Shaatz pessary (4:00 position of image above) is another variation. The incontinence dish pessary (5:00 position of image above) is used for stress urinary incontinence and mild POP.  A variation of this comes with a central support.

For Moderate-Severe POP

The Gellhorn pessary (3:00 position of image above) is used for greater degrees of POP than the pessaries described in the paragraph above, which are typically used for mild-moderate POP.  It tends to produce the greatest degree of vaginal discharge because of its shape.   The Hodge pessary has wires that can be manually shaped to fit the nuances of one’s anatomy. The Gehrung pessary (10:00 position of image above) also has wires that allow it to be manually shaped.  The donut pessary (center position of image above) is soft allowing it to be compressed for insertion, even with its bulk.  The cube pessary (9:00 position of image above) comes with a tie to help with its removal.

What Are Side Effects Of Pessaries?

The most common side effects are vaginal discharge and vaginitis (vaginal irritation or infection).  Occasionally, vaginal ulcerations can occur because of abrasive contact of the pessary with the delicate lining of the vagina.

How Does One Get Fitted For A Pessary?

A pelvic exam is performed prior to the fitting in order to help determine the proper size and type.  A properly fitted pessary should be large enough to function optimally, but not so large that it causes pressure or discomfort. It should be possible to insert a finger between the pessary’s outer rim and the wall of the vagina.

Usually a ring pessary (size 2, 3, or 4) is initially trialled.  It comes in 9 sizes, ranging from 2.00-4.00 in 0.25 increments.  If unsuccessful, a Gellhorn (size 2, 2.25, 2.5, or 2.75), cube or other model is utilized, depending upon particular circumstances. The largest pessary that is comfortable is placed and the patient is asked to walk and strain to ensure that it remains in proper position.  Motivated patients can be taught how to remove, clean and reinsert it. Typically, removal is done once weekly prior to sleeping, with reinsertion the following morning.  For the less motivated patient, the gynecologist can remove, clean and replace the device every three months or so.

Bottom Line: Pessaries are a non-surgical alternative to help provide pelvic support in women with pelvic organ prolapse.  They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes and need to be fitted and sized to the particulars of one’s anatomy.  They fold and compress to facilitate insertion and removal.  They are ideal for older patients who have medical issues that preclude surgical treatment.  If pessaries fail to improve the POP or cannot be retained or are poorly tolerated, a surgical procedure–pelvic reconstruction–can be performed to remedy the problem.  

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com 

DON’T Exercise Your Pelvic Muscles… TRAIN Them

April 1, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  4/1/2017

“Exercise” is not the same as “training” and “pelvic floor exercises” (“Kegels”) are not the same as “pelvic floor training.”

1116_Muscle_of_the_Perineum (1)

Male (left) and female (right) pelvic floor muscles–By OpenStax [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

To anybody interested in the nuances of exercise science, “exercising” and “training” are as different as apples and oranges. Don’t get me wrong—they are both healthy and admirable pursuits and doing any form of physical activity is far superior to being sedentary. However, exercise is more of being “in the moment,” a “here and now” physical activity– the short view. On the other hand, training is a well-planned and thought out process pursued towards the achievement of specific long-term goals– the long view. Every workout in a training program can be thought of as an incremental steppingstone in the process of muscle adaptation to achieve improvement or enhancement of function. The ultimate goal of a training program is being able to apply in a practical way the newly fit and toned muscles to daily activities—functional fitness—in order to achieve a better performance (and when it comes to the pelvic floor muscles, an improved quality of life.)

Muscle training is all about adaptation. Our muscles are remarkably adaptable to the stresses and loads placed upon them. Muscle growth will only occur in the presence of progressive overload, which causes compensatory structural and functional changes. That is why exercises get progressively easier in proportion to the effort put into doing them.  As muscles adapt to the stresses placed upon them, a “new normal” level of fitness is achieved. Another term for adaptation is plasticity–our muscles are “plastic,” meaning they are capable of growth or shrinkage depending on the environment to which they are exposed.

One obvious difference between pelvic floor muscles and other skeletal muscles is that the pelvic muscles are internal and hidden, which adds an element of challenge not present when training the visible arm, shoulder and chest muscles. However, the pelvic floor muscles are similar to other skeletal muscles in terms of their response to training. In accordance with the adaptation principle, incrementally increasing contraction intensity and duration, number of repetitions and resistance will build pelvic muscle strength, power and endurance.

The goal for pelvic floor muscle training is for fit pelvic muscles—strong yet flexible and equally capable of powerful contractions as well as full relaxation. The ultimate goal for pelvic floor muscle training—a goal that often goes unmentioned–is the achievement of “functional pelvic fitness.”  Pelvic floor muscle training really is the essence of functional fitness, training that develops pelvic floor muscle strength, power, stamina and the skill set that can be used to improve and/or prevent specific pelvic functional impairments including those of a sexual, urinary, or bowel nature and those that involve weakened pelvic support resulting in pelvic organ prolapse.

With occasional exceptions, most women and men are unable to perform a proper pelvic muscle contraction and have relatively weak pelvic floor strength. In my opinion, pelvic training programs should therefore initially focus on ensuring that the proper muscles are being contracted and on building muscle memory. It is fundamental to learn basic pelvic floor anatomy and function and how to isolate the pelvic muscles by contracting them independently of other muscles. Once this goal is achieved, pelvic training programs can be pursued.

Programs need to be able to address the specific area of pelvic weakness, e.g., if strength is the issue, emphasis on strength training is in order, whereas if stamina is the issue, focus on endurance training is appropriate. Furthermore, programs need to be designed for specific pelvic floor dysfunctions, with “tailored” training routines customized for the particular pelvic health issue at hand, whether it is stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual/orgasm issues, or pelvic pain. Aligning the specific pelvic floor dysfunction with the appropriate training program that focuses on improving the area of weakness and deficit is fundamental since each pelvic floor dysfunction is associated with unique and specific deficits in strength, power and/or endurance.

It is easiest to initially train the pelvic floor muscles in positions that remove gravity from the picture, then advancing to positions that incorporate gravity. It is sensible to begin with the simplest, easiest, briefest pelvic contractions, then advance to the more challenging, longer duration contractions, slowly and gradually increasing exercise intensity and degree of difficulty.

In my opinion, the initial training should not include resistance, which should be reserved for after achieving mastery of the basic training that provides the foundation for pelvic muscle proficiency.

Bottom Line: If you are serious about improving or preventing a pelvic floor dysfunction, you need to do pelvic floor muscle training as opposed to pelvic floor exercises. There are numerous differences including the following:

  • Training is motivated by specific goals and purposes while exercise is done for its own sake or for more general reasons
  • Training requires a level of focus and intensity not demanded by exercise
  • Training requires a plan
  • Training can be a highly effective means of improving and preventing pelvic floor dysfunction

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health  http://www.TheKegelFix.com

Leaking Havoc: Diagnosing And Treating Female Stress Urinary Incontinence

March 4, 2017

Andrew Siegel, MD  3/4/17

This is the completion of a blog entry uploaded last week entitled “Leaking Havoc: Female Stress Incontinence.”

How is Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) diagnosed and evaluated?

Listening carefully to the patient is usually sufficient to make the diagnosis of SUI, the typical complaint being: “Doc, I leak urine when I sneeze, cough and exercise.”

After hearing the details of the patient’s problem, the next step is a pelvic examination. The issue with an exam with legs-up-in-stirrups is that this is NOT the position in which SUI typically occurs, since SUI is usually provoked by standing, exertion and physical activities. For this reason, the exam must be performed using straining or coughing forcefully enough to demonstrate the SUI.

The pelvic examination is done after the patient empties her bladder. The exam involves observation, passage of a small catheter (a narrow hollow tube) into the bladder, a speculum exam and a digital exam.

Inspection determines tissue health and the presence of urethral movement with straining. After menopause, typical changes include thinning of the vaginal skin, redness, irritation, etc. The ridges and folds within the vagina that are present in younger women (rugae) tend to disappear.

A small catheter is passed into the bladder to determine how much urine remains, to obtain a urine culture in the event that urinalysis suggests infection and to determine urethral angulation. With the catheter in place, the angle that the urethra makes with the horizontal is measured. The catheter is typically parallel with the horizontal at rest. The patient is asked to strain and the angulation is again measured, recording the change in urethral angulation that occurs between resting and straining. Urethral angulation with straining (hyper-mobility) is a sign of loss of urethral support, which often is seen with SUI. The vagina is carefully inspected for other manifestations of pelvic organ prolapse (dropped bladder, rectum, uterus) that can accompany the SUI.

urethra-rest

                                     Image above: female urethra (woman in stirrups)–note that urethra points straight ahead, like the barrel of a rifle

urethra-strain

                             Image above: female urethra (woman in stirrups)– because of urethral hyper-mobility the urethra leaks at the moment she is asked to strain or cough

Finally, a digital examination is performed to assess vaginal tone and pelvic muscle strength (rated on a scale from 0-5). A bimanual exam (combined internal and external exam in which the pelvic organs are felt between internal and external examining fingers) checks for the presence of pelvic masses.

Depending on circumstances, tests to further evaluate SUI may be used, including an endoscopic inspection of the lining of the bladder and urethra (cystoscopy), sophisticated functional tests of bladder storage and emptying (urodynamics) and, on occasion, imaging tests (bladder fluoroscopy).                   

How is SUI managed?

There are a variety of treatment options for SUI, ranging from non-invasive strategies to surgery. There are no effective medications for SUI. If there is not an adequate response to first-line, non-invasive, conservative measures, surgery becomes an appropriate consideration. However, it is always sensible to initially use a conservative approach that is cost-effective, natural, uses few resources and is free from side effects.

Kegel Exercises for SUI

Kegels have emerged from obscure to mainstream…In fact the 2017 Oscar “swag bag” included a pelvic floor device called “The Elvie,” reviewed in my book THE KEGEL FIX.

 

one-sheet-poster

Combating SUI demands contracting one’s pelvic floor muscles (PFMs) strongly, rapidly and ultimately, reflexively. The goal of Kegels, a.k.a. pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) is to increase PFM strength, power, endurance and coordination to improve urethral support and closure.

Who Knew? PFMT has the potential to improve or cure SUI in those who suffer with the problem and prevent it in those who do not have it.

The cough reflex is an automatic contraction of the PFMs above and beyond their resting tone when one coughs. This squeezes the urethra shut to help prevent leakage. This is nature’s way of protection against incontinence with a sudden increase in abdominal pressure, a defense against cough-related SUI. An extension of this principle is to exercise the PFMs to amplify strength and power to allow earlier activation and more robust contraction.

PFMT increases PFM bulk and thickness, reducing the number of SUI episodes. Additionally, PFMT improves urethral support at rest and with straining, diminishing the urethral hyper-mobility that is characteristic of SUI. It also permits earlier activation of the PFMs when coughing, more rapid repeated PFM contractions and more durable PFM contractions between coughs.

Who Knew? PFMT can cure or considerably improve 60-70% of women who suffer with SUI. The benefits persist for many years, as long as the exercises are adhered to on an ongoing basis. PFMT is equally effective for pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women with SUI.

Who Knew? PFMT is most effective in women with mild or mild-moderate SUI. Chances are that if the SUI is moderate-severe, PFMT will be less effective. However, if not cured, the SUI can be improved, and that might be sufficient.

Once the PFMs are conditioned via PFMT, it is vital to apply the improved conditioning on a practical basis. The cough reflex can be replicated—voluntarily—when one is in situations other than actual coughing that induce SUI. In order to do so, one needs to be attentive to the triggers that provoke the SUI. By actively contracting the PFMs immediately prior to the trigger exposure, the SUI can be improved or prevented. For example, if changing position from sitting to standing results in SUI, consciously performing a brisk PFM contraction—an intense contraction for 2-5 seconds prior to and during transitioning from sitting to standing—should “clamp the urethra” and help control the problem. Such bracing of the PFMs can be a highly effective means of managing SUI and when practiced diligently can become automatic (a reflex behavior).

More Non-Invasive Strategies to Improve SUI

Manage the condition that provokes the SUI: Since discrete triggers often provoke SUI (e.g., when asthma causes wheezing, seasonal allergies cause sneezing, or when tobacco use, bronchitis, sinusitis, or post-nasal drip cause coughing), by managing the underlying condition, the SUI can be avoided.

Moderate fluid intake: With a sudden increase in abdominal pressure, there will tend to be more SUI when there are larger volumes in the bladder (although SUI can occur even immediately after urinating). Since there is a direct relationship between fluid intake and urine production, any moderation in fluid intake will decrease the volume of urine in the bladder and potentially improve the SUI. The key is to find the right balance to diminish the SUI, yet avoid dehydration. Since caffeinated beverages and alcohol increase urine volume, it is best to limit exposure (caffeine is present in coffee, tea, cola and even chocolate has a caffeine-like ingredient).

Urinate regularly: Based on the premise that there tends to be more SUI when there are greater volumes in the bladder, by emptying the bladder more frequently, SUI can be better controlled. Urinating on a two-hour basis is usually effective, although the specific timetable needs to be individually tailored. Voluntary urinary frequency is more desirable than involuntary SUI. An extension of this principle is to empty one’s bladder immediately before any activity that is likely to induce the SUI.

Maintain a healthy weight: Extra pounds can worsen SUI by increasing abdominal pressure and placing a greater load on the pelvic floor and bladder. Even a modest weight loss may improve SUI.

Who Knew? Bearing the burden of unnecessary pounds adversely affects many body parts. As much as obesity puts a great strain on the knees that support the body’s weight, so it does on the PFM.

Exercise: Being physically active can go a long way towards maintaining general fitness and helping improve SUI. In general, exercises that emphasize the core muscles—particularly Pilates and yoga—are most helpful for SUI. Unfortunately, and ironically, it is exercise that often provokes SUI.

Tobacco cessation: Tobacco causes bronchial irritation and coughing that provoke SUI. Additionally, chemical constituents of tobacco constrict blood vessels, impair blood flow, decrease tissue oxygenation and promote inflammation, negatively affecting function of the bladder, urethra and PFMs. By eliminating tobacco, SUI can be significantly improved.

Maintain bowel regularity: Achieving bowel regularity may improve SUI and prevent it from progressing. A rectum full of stool can adversely affect urinary control by putting internal pressure on the bladder and urethra. Additionally, chronic straining with bowel movements—similar in many ways to being in “labor” every day—can have a cumulative effect in weakening PFMs and can be a key factor in the development of SUI. To promote healthy bowel function, exercise daily and increase fiber intake by eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The tampon trick: If SUI occurs under very predictable circumstances—e.g., during tennis, golf or jogging—a strategically placed tampon can be a friend. The tampon is not used for absorption purposes, but to support the urethra. By positioning the tampon in the vagina directly under the urethra, it acts as a space-occupying backboard. The tampon does not need to be positioned as deeply as it would be for menstruation, but just within the vagina. This may allow one to pursue activities without the need for a pad. Poise has come out with “Impressa,” a tampon available in three sizes designed specifically for SUI. It is placed via an applicator and can be worn for up to eight hours. In Australia and the UK, “Contiform,” a self-inserted, foldable intra-vaginal device that is shaped like a hollow tampon, is often used to help manage SUI.

Surgical Management of SUI: Mid-urethral sling

sling

Image above is of a mid-urethral sling in place under the urethra to provide the support necessary to cure/substantially improve the stress urinary incontinence

If conservative measures fail to sufficiently improve SUI, there are solutions. A relatively simple outpatient procedure—the mid-urethral sling—is the implantation of a synthetic tape between the urethra and vagina to recreate the “backboard” of urethral support that is defective. This creates a “hammock” to provide support and to allow compression and pinching of the urethra with any activity that increases abdominal pressure.

The sling procedure is performed via a small vaginal incision. The permanent material used for the sling is polypropylene tape, the same material as used by general surgeons to repair groin hernias. Mid-urethral refers to the placement of the sling beneath the mid-urethra, the channel that leads from the bladder to the urinary opening. Sling refers to the configuration created when the tape is firmly anchored to the soft tissues of the pelvis after being placed underneath the urethra. The sling procedure has a 85-90% cure rate for SUI.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health. Much of the content of this entry was excerpted from this book.  The book was written for educated and discerning women who care about health, well being, nutrition and exercise and enjoy feeling confident, sexy and strong.

The Kegel Fix is available in e-book format on the Amazon Kindle, iPad (Apple iBooks), Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo and in paperback, all accessible via the following website: www.TheKegelFix.com. The e-book offers discretion, advantageous for books about personal issues, is less expensive, is delivered immediately, saves the trees, has adjustable fonts, as well as numerous hyperlinks—links to other sites activated by clicking—that access many helpful resources.

Kegels Go Hollywood: From Ben Wa Balls To The Elvie Pelvic Trainer

February 26, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  2/26/17

I do not ordinarily compose more than one blog entry per week, but Kegels Go Hollywood presented itself and is worthy of a timely discussion.

Photo below by Ivan Bandura [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commonsoscars_for_sale_6952722855

And the Oscar goes to….

arnold-kegel-gladser-studio-1953

Arnold Kegel MD (Gladser Studio, 1953)

“Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Fifty Shades of Darker” are not my cup of tea, although I confess to having read the first book to see what all the fuss was about.  According to The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, the current “Fifty Shades of Darker” movie is lacking in thrills, “unless you count the nicely polished performance from a pair of love balls.” The movie popularizes the use of Ben Wa Balls, which apparently spend most of their time settled deeply in the vagina of female character Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson).

ben-wa

 Ben Wa Balls

Included in the swag bag of high-end gifts at tonight’s Oscars is a pelvic floor training device called the “Elvie.” Manufactured in the UK, Elvie is a sophisticated wearable, egg-shaped, waterproof, flexible device inserted vaginally. Pelvic floor muscle contraction strength is measured and sent via Bluetooth to a companion mobile app on a smartphone that provides biofeedback to track progress. Five-minute workouts are designed to lift and tone the pelvic floor muscles. The app includes a game designed to keep users engaged by trying to bouncing a ball above a line by clenching their pelvic floor muscles. The carrying case also serves as a charging device. Cost is $199 (Elvie.com).

elvie

Elvie Pelvic Training Device 

I have worked with the company that manufactures Elvie and recently wrote a blog for the Elvie website on the topic of “Myths about the pelvic floor.” To access, go to:

https://www.elvie.com/blog/12-myths-about-the-pelvic-floor-with-dr-siegel

As a physician, urologist, author and pelvic floor muscle training advocate, I am quite pleased by the newfound awareness and popularity accorded pelvic floor muscle training, a highly beneficial means of improving/maintaining pelvic, sexual, urinary and bowel health–despite its popularization in Hollywood.

Benefits of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training

The vagina has its own set of intrinsic muscles (within its wall), which are further layered with the pelvic floor muscles (external to the vaginal wall). An intense pelvic floor muscle workout—albeit a pleasurable one made possible through devices like Ben Wa Balls or the Elvie—accords some real advantages to the participant. A stronger and better toned pelvic floor increases vaginal blood flow, lubrication, orgasm potential and intensity, the ability to clench the vagina as well as partner pleasure, overall increasing the potential for sexual gratification.  Of no less importance, a powerful pelvic floor also improves urinary and bowel control. Keeping the pelvic floor fit can prevent the onset of many sexual, urinary, bowel and other pelvic issues that may emerge with the aging process.

Love Balls 101

Motion-induced friction applied to the vaginal wall is one of the key factors leading to sexual pleasure.  Ben Wa Balls provide such friction and can be thought of as erotic toys as well as medical devices that are used to train the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles. When exercise can be made pleasurable—not unlike playing tennis as opposed to working out in the gym—it unquestionably provides significant advantages.

There are numerous variations in terms of Ben Wa ball size (usually one to two inches in diameter), weight, shape, composition and number of balls. Some are attached to a string, allowing tugging on the balls to add more resistance. Another type has a compressible elastic covering that can be contracted down upon. Still others vibrate. There are some upscale varieties that are carved into egg shapes from minerals such as jade and obsidian.

Ben Wall Balls are classified under the general heading of vaginal weights, devices that are placed in the vagina and require pelvic floor muscle engagement in order that they remain in position and not fall out when the user is upright, providing resistance to contract down upon.

Ben Wa balls are not unlike vaginal cones, which consist of a set of weights that are of identical shape but vary in their actual weight. Initially, one places a light cone in the vagina and stands up and walks about, allowing gravity to come into play. Pelvic floor 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 pelvic strength.  Gradual progression to heavier cones challenges the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles to improve strength and tone. Ben Wa balls can be thought of as sexy versions of the vaginal cones.

vaginal-conesVaginal Cones

 

Sophisticated Pelvic Training Devices Like Elvie

There are many pelvic resistance devices on the market—some basic and simple, like Ben Wa balls and vaginal cones—but many newer ones are a “high tech” and sophisticated means of providing resistance, biofeedback and tracking, often via Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone. More information will follow about these complex devices in future blog entries.

Bottom Line: Pelvic floor muscle training can be done with or without resistance devices like Ben Wa balls, vaginal cones, and the more sophisticated devices such as the Elvie.  The use of resistance devices adds a dimension beyond what is achievable by contracting one’s pelvic muscles without resistance (against air).  From a medical and exercise physiology perspective, muscles increase in strength in direct proportion to the demands placed upon them and resistance exercise is one of the most efficient ways to stimulate muscular and metabolic adaptation.

The slang term “pussy” is often used to connote “weak” and “ineffectual.”  Anastasia Steele’s “vagina of steel” fashioned by using Ben Wa Balls as a vaginal resistance device clearly shows that this does not have to be the case!

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

http://www.AndrewSiegelMD.com

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as 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 that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health http://www.MalePelvicFitness.com

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health http://www.TheKegelFix.com.  This book is written for educated and discerning women who care about health, well being, nutrition and exercise and enjoy feeling confident, sexy and strong.

The Kegel Fix is available in e-book format on the Amazon Kindle, iPad (Apple iBooks), Barnes & Noble Nook and Kobo and in paperback, all accessible via the following website: www.TheKegelFix.com. The e-book offers discretion, is less expensive, is delivered immediately, saves the trees, has adjustable fonts, as well as numerous hyperlinks—links to other sites activated by clicking—that access many helpful resources. Enjoy!