July 24, 2020
Have you ever experienced the loss of urine beyond your control while exercising, sneezing, or even laughing? This is called urinary incontinence and if you answered yes, you might be wondering if you should start doing Kegels to strengthen your pelvic floor and therefore fix the problem.
Our pelvic floor muscles create a sling from our pubic bone to our tailbone. They are part of our core which includes our abdominals, and they must withstand a lot of pressure when we cough, run, or even lift a bag of groceries to keep us from losing urine beyond our control.
These muscles can become weak from childbirth, the natural aging process, and from being very active—even men can develop urinary incontinence. While urinary incontinence is very common, it’s not normal. And learning to do Kegels correctly is the key to returning to life free from incontinence!
Correct Kegel technique involves an inward and upward lift in our pelvic floor muscles, much like what we do when we voluntarily stop the flow of urine or hold back gas. Many people do not perform Kegels properly, because they bear down and push out. And, unfortunately, that can make incontinence much worse!
Try this exercise to gain awareness of your pelvic floor muscles. Sit up with your feet on the floor and in your best posture. Inhale into your belly to relax. Then slowly exhale and gently lift and squeeze around your vaginal opening (if you got one) and/or anus. Did you feel your pelvic floor lift upwards?
On the other hand, if you are experiencing incontinence and/or pelvic pain associated with over-active pelvic floor muscles, strengthening may make the problem worse. Gentle stretches such as camel pose and child’s pose may be better for your condition. Because you may have to relax your muscles before you start strengthening.
Now, you are probably wondering how many repetitions and how often? The answer is different for everyone, there’s no one-size-fits all approach. The bottom line is if you’ve had something going on down there for more than a few months, it might be time to see a physical therapist who treats pelvic floor conditions to come up with the right program for you.