Posts Tagged ‘The Kegel Fix’

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

July 28, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  7/28/2018

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

 

elvie

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you really need to use a resistance device? 

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

Which resistance device will work best for you?

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

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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

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

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

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

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

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

Cover

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Female Pelvic Floor Muscle Resistance Training

July 21, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD   7/21/2018

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

 

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

–JV Luck, Air Surgeon’s Bulletin, 1945

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

–Mark Peterson, PhD

Resistance

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

Applying resistance training to the pelvic floor muscles

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

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

PFMT resistance tools

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

Vaginal Weights

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

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

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

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

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

Electro-Stimulation Devices

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

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

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

Simple PFMT Resistance Devices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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

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

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

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

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

Cover

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

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

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

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

 

Ladies, If You Leak When You Exercise

June 30, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  6/30/18

Exercise is of vital importance to physical and psychological health, reduces risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, is a great stress reducer and improves muscle strength, endurance, coordination and balance. It is an important factor in maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing body fat, increasing longevity and decreasing mortality. All good!girl-woman-sport-photographer-train-recreation-1165198-pxhere.com (1).jpg

image above, Creative Commons

Urinary incontinence is an annoying condition that women experience much more commonly than do men.  One of the main types is leakage with physical activities and exercise, a.k.a. stress urinary incontinence (SUI). When a woman suffers from SUI it often acts as a barrier to exercising because no one wants to be put in the embarrassing and inconvenient situation of wetting themselves every time they jump, bounce or move vigorously. Some women adapt by modifying the types of exercise that they participate in, while others give up completely on exercising, an omission that can contribute to poor physical and psychological health, a greater risk for medical issues, weight gain, etc.

What physical activities cause leakage?

The most common exercises that provoke SUI are high impact, vertical deceleration activities in which there is repeated contact with a hard surface with both feet simultaneously, e.g. skipping, trampoline, jumping jacks, jumping rope, running and jogging.

Other physical activities that commonly provoke SUI are exercises that combine dynamic abdominal and pelvic movements, e.g., burpees, squats, sit ups and weight bearing exercises, e.g., weighted squats, overhead kettle bell swings, etc.  The classic weight lifting style exercises are occasional triggers of SUI.

Activities that cause SUI (in order of those most likely to provoke the SUI)

  1. Skipping
  2. Trampoline
  3. Jumping jacks
  4. Running
  5. Jogging
  6. Box jumps
  7. Burpees
  8. Squats
  9. Sit ups
  10. Weighted squats
  11. Kettle bell swings
  12. Dead lifts
  13. Push ups
  14. Wall balls
  15. Shoulder press
  16. Clean and jerk
  17. Snatch
  18. Bench press
  19. Rowing

 So, what to do?

Many women figure out the means to improve or diminish the problem.  Common sense measures include urinating immediately before exercising and if possible taking washroom breaks during the activity (not always possible and inconvenient).  Even so, most women do not empty the bladder 100%, so if 1-2 ounces remain after emptying, there is still plenty of urine to potentially leak.  Other adaptive measures are fluid restriction (not particularly healthy before vigorous activity, risking dehydration).  Wearing a protective pad or incontinence tampon is certainly a way around the problem (although not ideal).  Another strategy is to modify one’s exercise program, such as reducing the duration, frequency or intensity of the activity.  Avoiding high impact exercises entirely and substituting them with activities that involve less impact is another possibility. However, these are adaptive and coping mechanisms and not real solutions.

There is a better solution

Urologists–particularly those like myself who have expertise in female pelvic medicine–can help manage the condition of stress urinary incontinence.  First line treatment is  Kegel pelvic floor exercises that—when done properly (as they are often not) with the right program—can often significantly improve the situation.

New video on pelvic floor exercises.

If a concerted effort at a Kegel program fails to sufficiently improve the situation, a 30-minute outpatient procedure called a mid-urethral sling is a highly effective means of treating the exercise incontinence.

Bottom Line: Physical activities most likely to induce urinary leakage are high impact exercises including skipping, trampoline, jumping jacks, jump rope and jogging.  Coping mechanisms and adaptive behaviors include fluid restriction (not healthy before exercise), urinating before activities (reasonable), taking breaks from exercise to urinate (inconvenient), pads (ugh), dialing down the intensity of exercising, modifying type of exercise or complete avoidance of exercising (undesirable).  If coping and adaptive behaviors are not effective, consider seeing a urologist who focuses on incontinence.  The goal of treatment is to be able to return to the physical activities that you enjoy without the fear of urinary leakage.   

Excellent resource: Urinary leakage during exercise: problematic activities, adaptive behaviors, and interest in treatment for physically active Canadian women: E Brennand, E Ruiz-Mirazo, S Tang, S Kim-Fine, Int Urogynecol J (2018)29: 497-503

Wishing you the best of health and a happy 4th of July holiday!

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

February 3, 2018

Andrew Siegel MD  2/3/18

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

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

shlomo and andy

 

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

Introduction

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

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

Dr. Kegel’s precepts are summarized as follows:

  • Muscle education
  • Feedback
  • Progressive intensity
  • Resistance

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

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

Practical concepts encompass the following:

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

To be continued….

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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

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

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

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

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

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

Cover

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)—Gun and Bullet Analogy

November 18, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   11/18/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

normal bladder

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

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

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

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

 

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

What to do about SUI?

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

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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

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

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

 MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

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

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

Cover

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

 

 

6 Ways To Reduce Risk for Pelvic Problems: Urinary Leakage, Dropped Bladder & Sexual Issues

November 4, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  11/4/17

shutterstock_femalebluepelvic

Ease into this topic with a write-up by Melanie Hearse about altered vaginal anatomy after childbirth and what to do and not to do about it, from BodyandSoul.com Australia: This woman has a warning about ‘fixing’ your downstairs after birth.

Our health culture in the USA is largely reactive as opposed to proactive.  Undoubtedly, a better model is prevention as opposed to intervention.  Attention to a few basic measures can make all the  difference in your pelvic health “destiny”:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Weight gain and obesity increase the occurrence of urinary control problems, dropped bladder, sexual, and other pelvic issues. Follow the advice of Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  Consume a nutritionally-rich diet with abundant fruits and vegetables (full of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber) and real food, versus processed and refined food products.  A healthy diet (quality fuel) is essential for ongoing tissue repair, reconstruction and regeneration. Stay physically active, obtain sufficient sleep, manage stress as best as possible, avoid tobacco (an awful habit, with chronic cough contributing to pelvic floor issues) and consume alcohol moderately.  Physical activity should include aerobic (cardio), strength, flexibility and core training (yoga, Pilates, etc.), the latter of which is especially helpful in preventing pelvic issues since the pelvic floor muscles form the floor of the core. A recent Harvard Medical School health report entitled “Best exercises for your body” recommended swimming, Tai chi, strength training, walking and Kegel exercises.
  • Prepare before pregnancy. Pregnancy, labor and vaginal delivery are the most compelling risk factors for pelvic floor issues. Commit to healthy lifestyle measures and pelvic floor muscle training as detailed above even before considering pregnancy in order to prevent/minimize the onset of pelvic issues that commonly follow pregnancy and childbirth.  The following article, written by Corynne Cirilli for Refinery 29 on October 6, addresses this issue in detail and is well worth reading: Why Aren’t We Talking About Pre-Baby Bodies?
  • Pelvic floor muscle training. Kegel exercises to increase pelvic muscle strength and endurance are vital to prevent pelvic floor issues. The Kegel Fix is a paperback book that guides you how to do Kegel contractions properly, provides specific training programs for each pelvic issue and teaches you how to put this skill set into practical use—Kegels “on demand.”
  • Avoid constipation and other forms of chronic increased abdominal pressure. Chronic constipation (bowel “labor”) can be as damaging to the pelvic floor as vaginal deliveries. Coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting (particularly weight training) and high impact sports all increase abdominal pressures, so take measures to suppress coughing, treat allergies to minimize sneezing and not overdo weight training and high-impact sports.
  • Consider vaginal estrogen therapy. After menopause, topical estrogen can nourish and nurture the vaginal and pelvic tissues that are adversely affected by the cessation of estrogen production. Low dose topical therapy can be effective with minimal systemic absorption, providing benefits while avoiding systemic side effects.
  • Get checked! Be proactive by periodically seeing your physician for a pelvic exam. It is best to diagnose a problem in its earliest presentation and manage it before it becomes a greater issue.

Bottom Line: Prepare and prevent rather than repair and prevent!

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 individuals who care about health, well-being, fitness and nutrition and enjoy feeling strong and confident.

 

 

5 Kegel Exercise Mistakes You Are Probably Making

October 21, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD 10/21/17

Do it right or don't do it

I have always been fond of this sentiment, the words of which were immortalized for me on a coffee mug courtesy of then 10-year-old Jeff Siegel (my son).  This statement holds true for everything in life, including pelvic floor exercises. 

Dr. Arnold Kegel (1894-1981), a gynecologist who taught at USC School of Medicine,  popularized pelvic floor muscle exercises to improve the sexual and urinary health of women following childbirth. His legacy is the pelvic exercise that bears his name—Kegels.

“Do your Kegels” is common advice from many a gynecologist (and from well-intentioned friends and family), particularly after a difficult childbirth has caused problems “down there.”  These pelvic issues include urinary leakage, drooping bladder, and stretching of the vagina such that things look and feel different and sex is just not the same.

“Do your Kegels” is sensible advice since this strengthens the pelvic floor muscles that support the pelvic organs, contribute to urinary and bowel control, and are intimately involved with sexual function. Developing strong and durable pelvic floor muscles is capable of improving, if not curing, these pelvic issues. Unfortunately, mastery of the pelvic floor is not as easy as it sounds because these muscles are internal and hidden and most often used subconsciously (unlike the external glamour muscles that are external and visible and used consciously).  

  The Kegel problem is threefold:

  1. Many women do not know how to do a proper Kegel contraction.
  2. Of those that can do a proper Kegel contraction, most do not pursue a Kegel exercise training program.
  3. Even those women who do know how to do a proper Kegel contraction and pursue a Kegel exercise training program are rarely, if ever, taught the most important aspect of pelvic muscle proficiency: how to put the Kegels to practical use in real-life situations  (“Kegels-on-demand”).

If a Kegel pelvic floor contraction is done incorrectly, not only will the pelvic issue not be helped, but actually could made worse. Only doing pelvic muscle contractions without pursuing a well-designed pelvic floor muscle training program is often an invitation to failure. Finally, if “Kegels-on-demand” to improve pelvic issues are not taught, it is virtually pointless to learn a proper contraction and complete a program, since the ultimate goal is the integration of Kegels into one’s daily life to improve quality. 

How does one do a proper Kegel pelvic contraction?  Simply stated, a Kegel is an isolated contraction of the pelvic floor muscles that draw in and lift the perineum (the region between vagina and anus). The feeling should be of this anatomical sector moving “up” and “in.”

5 Common Kegel Exercise Mistakes

Mistake # 1: Holding Your Breath

Breathe normally.  The Kegel muscles are the floor of the core group of muscles, a barrel of central muscles that consist of the diaphragm on top, the pelvic floor on the bottom, the abds in front and on the sides, and the spinal muscles in the back. Holding your breath pushes the diaphragm muscle down and increases intra-abdominal pressure, which pushes the pelvic floor muscles down, just the opposite direction you want them moving.

Mistake # 2: Contracting the Wrong Muscles

When I ask patients to squeeze their pelvic floor muscles during a pelvic exam, they often contract the wrong muscles, usually the abdominals, buttocks or thigh muscles. Tightening up the glutes is not a Kegel!  Others squeeze their legs together, contracting their thigh muscles.  Still others lift their butts in the air, a yoga and Pilates position called “bridge.” The worst mistake is straining and pushing down as if moving one’s bowels, just the opposite of a Kegel which should cause an inward and upward lift.

Fact: I have found that even health care personnel—those “in the know,” including physical therapists, personal trainers and nurses—have difficulty becoming adept at doing Kegels. 

Sadly, there is a device on the market (see below) called the “Kegel Pelvic Muscle Thigh Exerciser,” a Y-shaped plastic device that fits between your inner thighs such that when you squeeze your thighs together, the gadget squeezes closed. This exerciser has NOTHING to do with pelvic floor muscles (as it strengthens the adductor muscles of the thigh), serving only to reinforce doing the wrong exercise and it is shameful that the manufacturer mentions the terms “Kegel” and “pelvic muscle” in the description of this product.

kegeler

Learning to master one’s pelvic floor muscles requires an education on the details and specifics of the pelvic floor muscles, learning the proper techniques of conditioning them and finally, the practical application of the exercises to one’s specific issues.

Mistake # 3: Not Using a Kegel Program

Kegel exercises can potentially address many different pelvic problems—pelvic organ prolapse, sexual issues, stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladder/bowel, and pelvic pain due to excessive pelvic muscle tension.  Each of these issues has unique pelvic floor muscle shortcomings.  Doing casual pelvic exercises does not compare to a program, which is a home-based, progressive, strength, power and endurance training regimen that is designed, tailored and customized for the specific pelvic floor problem at hand. Only by engaging in such a program will one be enabled to master pelvic fitness and optimize pelvic support and sexual, urinary and bowel function.

Mistake # 4: Impatience

Transformation does not occur overnight!  Like other exercise programs, Kegels are a “slow fix.”  In our instant gratification world, many are not motivated or enthused about slow fixes and the investment of time and effort required of an exercise program, which lacks the sizzle and quick fix of pharmaceuticals or surgery. Realistically, it can take 6 weeks or more before you notice improvement, and after you do notice improvement, a “maintenance” Kegel training regimen needs to be continued (use it or lose it!)

Mistake # 5: Not Training for Function (“Kegels-on-Demand”)

Sadly, most women who pursue pelvic training do not understand how to put their newfound knowledge and skills to real life use. The ultimate goal of Kegels is achieving functional pelvic fitness, applying one’s pelvic proficiency to daily tasks and common everyday activities so as to improve one’s quality of life.  It is vital, of course, to begin with static and isolated, “out of context” exercises, but eventually one needs to learn to integrate the exercises on an on-demand basis (putting them in to “context”) so as to improve leakage, bladder and pelvic organ descent, sexual function, etc.

Bottom Line: Kegel pelvic floor muscle exercises are a vastly under-exploited and misunderstood resource, despite great potential benefits of conditioning these small muscles.  In addition to improving a variety of pelvic issues (urinary and bowel leakage, sexual issues, dropped bladder, etc.), a strong and fit pelvic floor helps one prepare for pregnancy, childbirth, aging and high impact sports.  The Kegel Fix book is a wonderful resource that teaches the reader how to do proper Kegels, provides specific programs for each unique pelvic issue, and reveals the specifics of “Kegels-on-demand,” how to put one’s fit pelvic floor and contraction proficiency to practical use in the real world.

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.