Exercises Specifically for the Pelvic Floor
Pelvic muscle exercises are an important part of the behavioral treatment techniques that help increase bladder control and decrease bladder leakage. These techniques require your conscious effort and consistent participation.
Pelvic muscle exercises, also called pelvic floor muscle or Kegel [Kay-gull] exercises – after the Dr. Arnold Kegel, have been shown to improve mild to moderate urge and stress incontinence. When performed correctly, these exercises help to strengthen the muscles at your bladder outlet. Through regular exercise you can build strength and endurance to help improve, regain, or maintain bladder and bowel control.
The muscles of the pelvic floor are located in the base of your pelvis between your pubic bone and tailbone. These muscles have three main functions:
(1) They help support the abdominal and pelvic contents from below,
(2) They are responsible for helping to control bowel and bladder function, and
(3) They are involved in sexual response. Like other muscles in the body, if these muscles get weak they are no longer efficient at doing their job.
How to Find and Recognize the Muscles
As you can see from Diagram 1, it can be difficult to find these pelvic muscles. The pelvic floor muscles (PFM) are the ones you use to hold back gas or to stop a urine stream. For instance, imagine that you need to hold back gas. Squeeze and lift the rectal area, and for women also the vaginal area, without tightening the buttocks or belly (abdomen).
Another technique used only to help you identify the PFM is to attempt to stop or slow the flow of urine. While urinating, partially empty your bladder then try to stop or slow the stream of urine. Remember to relax and completely empty your bladder when you have finished this test. Do not do this start-and-stop test on a regular basis (no more than twice a month). It is not a helpful way to exercise the pelvic floor muscles.
Locating these muscles may also require you to use a mirror or one of the variety of training aids such as biofeedback, muscle electrical stimulation, or for women, vaginal weights.
This informational brochure, based on the proven PFM exercises developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel, is designed to describe a variety of techniques to help you exercise your pelvic muscles.
There are two types of exercises that you should perform to improve continence.
The first exercise, Type 1, works on the holding ability of the muscles (building a strong dam to hold back urine). It is done by slowly tightening, lifting, and drawing in the PFM and holding them to a count of five. At first, you will probably notice that the muscles do not want to stay contracted or tightened very long. You may only be able to hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds. Progress slowly over a period of weeks to a goal of 10-second holds. Rest for 10 seconds between each contraction.