Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kegel Exercises

Everyone may benefit from Kegel exercises, but women, particularly women who have carried and borne children, stand to reap particular benefits. One terrific thing about Kegel exercises is that they may be done anywhere and anytime and no one will know you are doing them! However, the best thing about Kegel exercises is that they are genuinely effective in improving pelvic floor function and integrity.

Also called pelvic floor exercises, these exercises are named after Dr Arnold Kegel (pronounced “kay-gel”) and consist of alternately contracting and relaxing the “hammock” of muscles that support and hold the pelvic organs in place. These muscles, named the Pubococcygeous muscles, are the only supportive structure for the bladder, uterus, vagina and bowel. The muscles have now become known by many as the “Kegel” muscles.

The benefits of Kegel exercises include strengthening the pelvic floor and giving women improved control of these muscles during labor and delivery, preventing and treating urinary and fecal incontinence, improved hemorrhoid symptoms, and increased satisfaction with sexual activity. Kegel exercises have been shown to improve all three types of incontinence: urge, stress, and overactive. These exercises are particularly beneficial after childbirth and may be started as soon as a woman feels ready, even immediately after delivery!

How to Kegel:
  • To find the correct muscles start by squeezing the muscles in your genital area. You might practice this by stopping the flow of urine when urinating, or by paying attention to which muscles you use to hold back the passage of flatus. 
  • Contract (tighten) these muscles and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do three sets of 10 daily.
  • Breathe normally while doing these exercises and take care not to hold your breath. 
  • Remember to keep your leg, buttock and abdominal muscles relaxed while “Kegeling.”
  • Initially you may want to practice the exercises while sitting or lying down. Once you feel confident in your ability to exercise the appropriate muscles, try performing the Kegels in different positions including lying, sitting, squatting, bending, and while walking, jogging, dancing or performing other exercises, and during sexual activity.
  • You may also ask your health care practitioner to assess or assist you to be sure you are using the appropriate muscles.  
When to Kegel:
  • While sitting in a waiting room.
  • While standing in a line.
  • At stop lights.
  • In car washes or drive through banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners.
  • During television commercials.
  • Anytime! 
Gloria Glidewell, CNM, MS, is a certified nurse midwife on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

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