To Kegel or Not to Kegel?
Did you know kegels aren’t right for everyone? Sometimes they can make your symptoms worse. That’s right, worse. If you have overactive pelvic floor muscles, kegels can make them feel more tightness, increase pain, and can increase bladder leakage. In this instance, learning how to relax your pelvic floor muscles is essential for making progress.
Our pelvic floor muscles are like any other muscles. You wouldn’t hold a bicep curl with a 20lb weight all day. Your bicep would get very tight, weak in positions other than the one it’s in, and overly fatigued. You need to go through the full range of motion, fully extending and relaxing your muscles and then doing a bicep curl in order to gain strength for the entire movement. Rest is key! When you have overactive pelvic floor muscles, it’s like you’re holding a bicep curl all day. It’s important to learn to relax your pelvic floor muscles, so eventually you can strengthen and coordinate movement through the entire range of motion in order to eliminate leaking and/or pain.
For women with underactive pelvic floor muscles, kegels can be very helpful if done right. The key words are “done right”. A brief study showed that when given verbal instruction for how to do a kegel, only 60% had an effective effort, while 40% did not. Of the 40%, 25% performed an action that would further promote urinary incontinence/leakage, such as bearing down (Bump, 1991). When done correctly, they can be very helpful for reducing leakage.
Not sure if your pelvic floor is over or underactive? Not sure if you’re performing a kegel correctly? To know for sure, a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist can perform an assessment and get you on the right track. Feel free to send me a message or reach out to your local pelvic floor PT. Say goodbye to leaking when you sneeze/cough/laugh/exercise!
Bump, R. C., Hurt, W. G., Fantl, J. A., & Wyman, J. F. (1991). Assessment of Kegel pelvic muscle exercise performance after brief verbal instruction. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 165 (2), 322-329.