Posts Tagged ‘pelvic floor muscles’

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

 

 

 

 

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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 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

 

Preparing For Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): What You Need To Know (Part 3)

January 20, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  1/20/18

This entry, written for both women as well as men, is intended to enable one to do a proper contraction of  the pelvic floor muscles (PFM), a task easier said than done.  A means of self-assessment of PFM strength and stamina is offered. 

Image Below: The Pelvic Floor Muscles (Male left; Female right)

1116_Muscle_of_the_Perineum

Attribution: URL: https://cnx.org/contents/FPtK1zmh@8.108:b3YG6PIp@6/Axial-Muscles-of-the-Abdominal
Version 8.25 from the Textbook
OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology
Published May 18, 2016 

Do It Right

PFM exercises (Kegel exercises) must be done properly to reap benefits. Many think they are doing these pelvic contractions correctly, but actually are contracting the wrong muscles, an explanation of why their efforts may have failed to improve their clinical situation. In both women and men, PFM exercises involve pulling inwards and upwards, lifting and elevating.  In females, this will result in tightening the urethral, vaginal and anal openings and in males tightening the anus and if done at the time of an erection, elevating the erect penis.  Proper pelvic contractions are the very opposite of straining. One strains to move their bowels, whereas one “Kegels” to accomplish the opposite—to tighten up the sphincters to NOT move their bowels; in fact, PFM contractions are a means of suppressing bowel urgency (as well as urinary urgency).

How do you know if you are contracting your PFM properly?

For the Ladies: 6 Ways to Know That You Are Properly Contracting Your PFM

  1. When you see the base of your clitoris retract and move inwards towards your pubic bone.
  2. When you see your perineum (area between vagina and anus) move up and in.
  3. When you see the anus contract (“anal wink”) and feel it tighten and pull up and in.
  4. When you can stop your urinary stream completely.
  5. When you place your index and middle fingers on your perineum and you feel the contraction.
  6. When you place a finger in your vagina, you feel the vaginal “grip” tighten.

 

 

For the Gentlemen: 6 Ways to Know That You Are Properly Contracting Your PFM

  1. When you see the base of your penis retract inwards towards the pubic bone and the testes rise up towards the groin.
  2. When you place your index and middle fingers in the midline between the scrotum and anus and you feel the PFM contractions.
  3. When you see the anus contract (“anal wink”) and feel it tighten and pull up and in.
  4. When you get the same feeling as you do when you are ejaculating.
  5. When you touch your erect penis and feel the penile erectile chambers surge with blood and you can make the penis lift upwards when you are in the standing position.
  6. When you can stop your urinary stream completely.

Fact:  Vince Lombardi stated: “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”  This is wholly applicable to PFM training. Do it right or don’t do it!

Assessing Your PFM: Note that this is used primarily for women

There are many fancy ways of testing your PFM, but the simplest is by using tools that everyone owns—their fingers.  Digital palpation (a finger in the vagina, or alternatively the anal canal) is the standard means of testing the contraction strength of the PFM. The other methods are visual inspection, electromyography (measuring electrical activity of the PFM), perineometry (measuring PFM contractile strength via a device that is inserted into the vagina or anus) and imaging tests that assess the lifting aspects of the PFM, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging.

Assessment of your PFM evaluates PFM strength and endurance.  PFM strength can be self-assessed in the supine position (lying down, face up) with your knees bent and parted. Gently place a lubricated finger of one hand in the vagina (or alternatively the anal canal) and contract your PFM, lifting upwards and inwards and squeezing around the finger. Keep your buttocks down in contact with the surface you are lying on. Ensure that you are not contracting your gluteal (butt), rectus (abdomen) or adductor (inner thigh) muscles. Do this by placing your other hand on each of these other muscle groups, in turn, to prove to yourself that these muscles remain relaxed during the PFM contraction.

Rate your PFM strength using the modified Oxford grading scale, giving yourself a grade ranging from 0-5.  Note that the Oxford system is what many physicians use and it is relatively simple when done regularly by those who are experienced performing pelvic exams. Granted that this is not your area of expertise, so you may find this challenging. However, do your best to get a general sense of your baseline PFM strength.

Oxford Grading of PFM Strength

0—complete lack of contraction

1—minor flicker

2—weak squeeze

3—moderate squeeze

4—good squeeze

5—strong squeeze

Next test your PFM endurance. Do as many PFM contractions as possible, pulsing the PFM rapidly until fatigue sets in (the failure point where you cannot do any more contractions).  After you have recovered, contract the PFM for several seconds followed by relaxing them for several seconds, doing as many repetitions until fatigue occurs. Finally, do a single PFM contraction and hold it for as long as you can.

Record your Oxford grade and the maximum number of pulses, maximum number of several second contractions and the duration of the sustained hold as baseline measurements. These will be useful to help assess your progress. Initially, it is likely that your PFM will be weak and lack endurance capacity.

Coming soon…The Nuts and Bolts of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training.

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 pelvic floor health 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 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing For Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): What You Need To Know

January 6, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  1/6/2017

Happy New Year!  At this time, many of us are trying to execute New Year’s resolutions.  Topping the list of most resolutions is getting into good physical shape.  A vital piece of this is pelvic floor fitness; in fact, pelvic floor muscle training was among the top five exercises recommended for general health and fitness in a recent Harvard Medical School report.

The next series of blog entries, written for both men and women, will enable you to achieve pelvic floor fitness.  Remember, Kegels are not just for the ladies!  This first entry discusses the fast and slow twitch muscle fibers that determine pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function, the adaptation principle and the distinction between strength, power and stability.  

Image below: Male PFM (left) and female PFM (right); notice their similarity.

1116_Muscle_of_the_PerineumAttribution: URL: https://cnx.org/contents/FPtK1zmh@8.108:b3YG6PIp@6/Axial-Muscles-of-the-Abdominal  Version 8.25 from the Textbook, OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology, 
Published May 18, 2016

Muscles 101

Muscles provide shape to our bodies and allow for movement, stability and maintenance of posture.  Most skeletal muscles come in pairs and cross bony joints—when one group contracts, it causes bending of that joint and when the opposing group contracts, it causes straightening of that joint (e.g., biceps/triceps).  When each contract equally, the joint is in a neutral position. The human body has three types of muscles—skeletal muscles that provide mobility and stability, smooth muscles that line the arteries, bladder, intestine, etc., and the unique cardiac muscle of the heart.  Muscles are composed of fibers that contract (shorten and tighten) and relax (lengthen and loosen).

The PFM are skeletal muscles that are comprised of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch fibers predominate in high contractile muscles that fatigue rapidly and are used for fast-paced muscle action, e.g., sprinting.  Slow twitch fibers predominate in endurance muscles, e.g., marathon running. The PFM have a constant tone (low level of involuntary contraction) because of the presence of slow twitch fibers. The fast twitch fibers allow for voluntary contraction. The PFM fibers are 70% slow twitch, fatigue-resistant, endurance muscles to maintain constant muscle tone (e.g., sphincter function and pelvic support) and 30% fast twitch, capable of rapid and powerful contractions (e.g., sexual climax, interrupting the urinary stream and tightening the anus).

Fact:  Aging causes a decline in the function of the fast twitch fibers, but tends to spare the slow twitch fibers.   

Muscle mass is in a dynamic state, a constant balance between growth and breakdown. With aging, muscle fiber wasting occurs as muscle breakdown exceeds muscle growth, adversely affecting function. Strength training reduces muscle wasting by increasing muscle bulk through enlargement of muscle fibers. This is true of all skeletal muscles, the PFM being no exception.

Adaptation Principle

Muscles are remarkably responsive to the stresses placed upon them.  Muscle growth only occurs in the presence of progressive overload, which causes compensatory structural and functional changes, a.k.a. adaptation. This explains 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. Skeletal muscles are “plastic,” capable of growth or shrinkage depending on the environment to which they are exposed.

The PFM behave similarly to other skeletal muscles in terms of their response to exercise or lack thereof.  In accordance with the adaptation principle, it is advisable to increase number of repetitions and contraction intensity to build muscle PFM strength, power and endurance.  As much as our muscles adapt positively to resistance, so they will adapt to the absence of stress and resistance, resulting in smaller, weaker and less durable muscles.

Fact: Use It or Lose It. With a conditioning regimen, the PFM will thrive, optimizing their function.  When the PFM are neglected, they will weaken, impairing their function.   

Strength, Power and Stability

The goal of PFM training is to maximize the trio of PFM strength, power and stability. Strength is the maximum amount of force that a muscle can exert. With time and effort, PFM contractions become more robust, helping sexual function and improving one’s ability to neutralize stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder and pelvic organ prolapse in females.  In males, command of one’s pelvic floor muscles can improve sexual, urinary and prostate health.  Power is a gauge of strength and speed (muscle force multiplied by the contraction speed), a measure of how rapidly strength can be expressed, of great benefit to sexual health and the ability to react rapidly to urinary/bowel urgency and stress urinary incontinence. Stability helps maintain vaginal tone, urinary and bowel sphincter function and pelvic organ support as well as contributing to the “backboard” that helps prevent stress urinary incontinence.

To be continued… Next week’s entry provides information on the process of building muscle PFM memory and how to develop PFM awareness.

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

 

 

 

Love Muscles Illustrated

December 23, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  12/23/17

Hermes Butchart Gardens, Victoria

Above photo of Hermes I took this past summer at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada 

In this entry, words will be kept to a minimum because the illustrations tell most of the story.  The images of the superficial pelvic floor muscles (muscles of love) that follow derive from the 1918 edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body (public domain), modified by Uwe Gille.

Whether you are male or female, two vital muscles — bulbocavernosus (BC) and ischiocavernosus (IC— have an intimate relationship with your genitals and are the “motor” that drives their function.  Without them, your penis or vagina would be non-functional putty!  Notice how remarkably similar the muscles are in both genders, the only difference being that the BC muscle is split in women, divided by the vagina.

Factoid: The relationship of the BC and IC muscles to the vagina and penis parallels the relationship between the diaphragm and the lungs. Without a functioning diaphragm to move the lungs, your lungs would be non-functional bags of air. 

Male BC (top) and IC muscles (bottom)

Bulbospongiosus-Male

Ischiocavernosus-male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Transform “plump” penis to “rigid” penis by compressing erectile chambers (responsible for penile high blood pressure)
  • Enables you to move your erect penis up and down at will
  • Stabilizes erect penis so it stays rigid and skyward-angled
  • Contract at climax and responsible for forcible expulsion of semen

Factoid: The only place in the body it is desirable to have high blood pressure is the penis. The BP at the time of full rigidity is > 200 mm, the 80-100 mm increase over systolic BP achieved by virtue of contraction of these muscles.

 

 

 

 

Female BC (top) and IC muscles (bottom)

Bulbospongiosus-Female

Ischiocavernosus-female

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Increase pelvic blood flow during arousal, contributing to lubrication and plumping of vulva
  • Transform clitoris from flaccid to erect
  • Enables tightening vagina at will
  • Contract at the time of climax contributing to physical sensation of orgasm

Factoid: Women capable of achieving “seismic” orgasms most often have very strong, toned, supple and flexible BC and IC muscles.

 

 

 

Bottom Line: In men, these muscles function as the “erector penis” and “ejaculator penis.”  In women, these muscles function as the “erector clitoris,” “constrictor vagina,” and “climaxer maximus.”  Whether you are female or male, optimize the function of these muscles by doing Kegel exercises and make sure you do them properly: Male Kegel Book; Female Kegel Book.  To quote Sam Sneed, “Exercise puts brains in your muscles,” totally appropriate to these vital muscles that govern sexual function. 

Wishing you the best of health, a merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018!

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 Female O: What You Need To Know

November 25, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   11/25/2017

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all!  Among the items to be grateful for are food, shelter, family, friends and of course, love–in all its aspects.  What follows are some (hopefully illuminating) words on the female sexual climax.

alphabet-150778_1280.png

Thank you, Pixabay, for image above

The word “orgasm” is derived from New Latin orgasmus and Greek orgasmós, meaning “to swell; to be excited.”  Defining orgasm is hardly necessary for anyone who has ever experienced one (and if you haven’t, Meg Ryan did a fine rendition in the movie “When Harry Met Sally”!), but it is worth reviewing some of the different medically-oriented definitions:

Kinsey: The expulsive discharge of neuromuscular tension at the peak of sexual response.

Masters and Johnson: A brief episode of physical release from the vaso-congestion and myotonic increment developed in response to sexual stimuli.

John Money: The zenith of sexual-erotic experience characterized as voluptuous rapture or ecstasy occurring simultaneously in the brain/mind and the genitalia. Irrespective of its locus of onset, the occurrence is contingent upon reciprocal intercommunication between neural networks in the brain, above, and the genitalia below, and it does not survive their disconnection by the severance of the spinal cord, but is able to survive even extensive trauma at either end.

Definition quoted at a sexual urology meeting I attended: A variable transient peak sensation of intense pleasure creating an altered state of consciousness, usually with an initiation accompanied by involuntary, rhythmic contractions of the pelvic striated circumvaginal musculature, often with concomitant uterine and anal contractions and myotonia that resolves the sexually induced vaso-congestion and myotonia, generally with an induction of well-being and contentment. 

Whoa…That last one is ridiculously technical and complex!

A simple definition is the following: A release of muscle tension accompanied by pelvic pulsations at the peak of sexual excitement that follows sexual arousal, which is marked by genital swelling, muscle tension, erect nipples, increased heart rate, heart contractility, blood pressure and breathing rate and skin flushing.

The are many descriptor terms used to describe what may happen during an orgasm: pulsations, contractions, spasms, goosebumps, shivers, hot flashes, flushing, tingling, perspiration, moaning, building, swelling, flowing, flooding, spreading, spurting, shooting, throbbing, pulsating, shuddering, trembling, quivering.

In terms of achieving orgasm, the most important organ is not a throbbing, erect penis or a pulsating, lubricated vagina, but the brain—the master organ and “governor” of sexuality.  It is capable of fostering an earth-shattering, consciousness-altering, explosive mind-body experience, but is equally capable of dooming a sexual experience to failure. It is a given that in order to have a positive sexual experience, the brain and mind must cooperate with the body.  Emotions, memories, thoughts, perceptions and sensations contribute vitally to the sexual experience.

Pathway to Sexual Climax

Accompanying arousal and sexual stimulation is increased pelvic blood flow that induces vaginal lubrication and congestion and engorgement of the vulva, vagina and clitoris.  The “orgasmic platform” is the Masters and Johnson’s term for the outer third of the vagina with engorged inner lips, which they considered to be the “base” of pelvic blood congestion. With increasing stimulation and arousal, physical tension within the genitals gradually builds and once sufficient intensity and duration of sexual stimulation surpass a threshold, involuntary rhythmic muscular contractions occur of the pelvic floor muscles, the vagina, uterus and anus, followed by the release of accumulated erotic tension and a euphoric state. Thereafter, the genital engorgement and congestion subside, muscle relaxation occurs and a peaceful state of physical and emotional bliss and afterglow become apparent.

The pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically during climax: a total of 10-15 contractions typically occur, with the first 3-5 contractions occurring at 0.8-second intervals after which the interval between contractions lengthens and the intensity of the contractions decreases. However, orgasm is not only a genital response, but also a total body reaction causing numerous muscles to go into involuntary spasm, including the facial muscles resulting in grimacing, hand and foot muscles resulting in finger and toe curling, and numerous skeletal muscles that tense prior to release. Additionally, pupils dilate, skin flushes and the clitoral head retracts.

Clitoral vs. Vaginal Orgasm

Most women report that both clitoral and vaginal stimulation play important roles in achieving sexual climax. However, the clitoris has the greatest density of nerves, is easily accessible and typically responds readily to stimulation, so for most women is the fastest track to sexual climax. It is estimated that 70% of women require clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.  Clitoral orgasms are often described as a buildup of sensation in the clitoral region with intense waves of external muscle spasm and release. In contrast, vaginal orgasms are described as slower, fuller, wider, deeper, more expansive, complex, pervasive whole-body sensation.

Orgasms can be triggered via different neural pathways–clitoral orgasms via the pudendal nerves and vaginal orgasms via both the pudendal nerves that provide the nerve supply to the more superficial aspect of the vagina and the hypogastric and pelvic splanchnic nerves that provide the supply to the deeper aspect of the vagina.

The truth of the matter is that lady parts are all inter-connected and work together, so grouping orgasm into clitoral versus vaginal is arbitrary and artificial.  Penetrative sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation as the clitoral shaft moves rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner lips, the lips of which join together to form the hood of the clitoris. Furthermore, the “legs” and “bulbs” of the clitoris—the deep anatomy that extends below the surface—are stimulated by vaginal penetration. Upward movement in the missionary position in which there is pubic bone to pubic bone contact provides direct clitoral stimulation as well.

Anatomical variations can affect ability to achieve sexual climax. Clitoral size and the distance of the clitoris to the vaginal opening differ among women. Women whose clitoris is closer to the vaginal opening are more likely to report orgasms from sexual intercourse. Women who have difficulty or cannot achieve orgasm often have a smaller clitoral head.

Orgasms can at times be achieved by non-genital stimulation. Some women can climax simply by erotic thoughts, others by breast stimulation or foot massage.  At the time of climax, some women are capable of “ejaculating” fluid. The nature of this fluid has been controversial, thought by some to be hyper-lubrication and others to be glandular secretions (Bartholin’s and/or Skene’s glands). There are certain women who “ejaculate” very large volumes of fluid at climax and studies have shown this to be urine released due to involuntary bladder contractions that can accompany sexual climax.

Wishing you the best of health and a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend,

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

 

 

“Size” Should Never Outrank “Service”

November 11, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  11/11/2017

As I stood in the gateway line during the painful process of boarding an airplane, I caught sight of a poster ad stating the following: “Size should never outrank service.” This referred to the smaller size regional jets that offer amenities including first-class, Wi-Fi, etc. Later, I saw another poster ad for the same airline stating: “How fast the flight goes isn’t always up to pilot.” As a physician interested in sexual/pelvic health and language, I found these sentences with double meanings amusing and entertaining.  The ultimate phallic structure is an aircraft and aeronautics provides a rich metaphor for male sexual function, the topic of today’s entry.  

Large and clunky

Airbus_A380-861,_Airbus_Industrie_AN2032144

By Oleg V. Belyakov – AirTeamImages [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Small and nimble

800px-F-15_vertical_deploy

Above image, public domain

 

Terms that apply to aeronautics and sexual function

Aircraft: a machine capable of flight—the penis

Pilot: the person who occupies the cockpit and controls the aircraft—the possessor of the penis

Cockpit (I really like this word!): the front of the fuselage where the pilots sit—the head of the penis

Fuselage: the body of the aircraft—the shaft of the penis

Horizontal and vertical stabilizers of the tail:  aircraft parts that provide stability to keep it flying straight—the pelvic floor muscles that stabilize and support the penis

Flight: the process of flying that includes a launch, a flight pattern and a landing—a sexual encounter

Launch: the takeoff—obtaining an erection

Flight pattern: the aircraft’s movement after takeoff—the sexual act

Landing: the conclusion and most difficult part of the flight, which requires skill, precision and timing to perform competently — ejaculation/orgasm

 Cruising Altitude: the altitude at which most of a flight is flown in route to a destination—a fully rigid erection

Jet fuel: fuel designed for use in an aircraft—in erectile terms, penile blood flow

Fuel line: the means by which fuel is pumped from the storage tanks to the engine—the penile arteries

Thrust: the propulsive force of an aircraft—the surging power of the erect penis

Throttle: a device for controlling the flow of fuel to an aircraft’s engine—the nerves that control the smooth muscle within the penile arteries and within the erectile tissue

Failure to Launch: a condition in which the aircraft is unable to get airborne—erectile dysfunction

Emergency landing: unanticipated landing before the scheduled arrival time—premature ejaculation

Aborted Landing: when an aircraft is about to land, but the pilot halts the landing and regains altitude deferring the landing—delayed ejaculation

Ground Time: the amount of down time between landing and the next flight—refractory period

Mayday: distress signal indicative of a significant problem with the aircraft or flight—a major sexual failure

Bottom Line:  Aeronautics provides an excellent metaphor for male sexual function.  The pilot can be accorded better control, longer flight times, higher altitudes, as well as launching a second flight with less ground time by attending to a few key measures. Although it is impossible to convert a F-15 Eagle (pictured above) into an Airbus A380 (pictured above), it is a fact that size should never outrank service!  Bigger is not always better as function often trumps form. 

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.

 

 

 

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 

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

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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