A pelvic floor contraction, or Kegel (named after gynecologist, Arnold Kegel) is a way to improve and maintain the strength of the pelvic floor. Like any exercise, it can be difficult at first to know that you are performing Kegels properly, but with practice they become second nature. Here are a few tips to ensure you are performing them correctly:
- Finding the pelvic floor muscles. If you can stop your urine flow mid-stream, you have identified your pelvic floor muscles. This is the most difficult part of the exercise. **Do not perform daily Kegels while urinating, only perform contraction while urinating initially to identify the correct muscles.
- Isolating the pelvic floor muscles. Now that you found the muscles in step one, we want to be careful we don’t bring in all our other hip muscle “friends” with the Kegel. This means no contraction or your glutes (butt) muscles, thighs or abdomen, you really want to just isolate the pelvic floor. The wonderful thing about Kegels is that no one in the room should know you are doing them if you are doing them correctly.
- Don’t forget to breathe. Holding your breath or inhaling while you squeeze can increase pressure on your pelvic floor, which will not optimize your contraction. A good tip is to count quietly while you squeeze the muscles to ensure you are breathing.
- Ensure good range of motion. It is very important you relax the muscles completely with each repetition of the Kegel. Counting to 4-5 seconds in between squeezes can help ensure your muscles relax fully.
- Building your routine. Performing with an empty bladder, your first goal should be to tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds. When this becomes easy, increase to 10 seconds. Increase your repetitions gradually to reach 30-40 repetitions per day. Pair your Kegels with something you do daily like brushing your teeth, driving (think stop lights) or eating. This way they will become part or your lifestyle and you will ensure you get your repetitions in throughout the day.
**While Kegels are an important part of maintaining pelvic health, they may not be for everyone. If you are experiencing pelvic pain or have difficulty fully emptying your bowel or bladder, Kegels may not be for you at this time. An evaluation by a pelvic health physical therapist can ensure you are performing Kegels properly as well as help with any bladder, bowel or sexual function problems you may be experiencing.