LIVING WITH INCONTINENCE
Incontinence exerciseRead more
‘Kegel exercises’ is another name for pelvic floor exercises. The name comes from American gynaecologist, Arnold Kegel. His description of the exercises as a non-surgical solution to female urinary incontinence was first published in 1948. His name became so closely linked with this aspect of gynaecology, that the pelvic floor is sometimes referred to as the Kegel muscle.
Kegel pioneered the notion that by contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscle, strength could be restored, improving continence – especially in women who’d given birth.
These days, we know Kegel exercises benefit men and women, those who’ve given birth and those who haven’t. A stronger pelvic floor improves bladder and bowel continence, as well as sexual function in both genders.
Perhaps because of the association with women, some men are surprised to learn that they even have a pelvic floor muscle. You can read more about it and other Pelvic Floor Myths here
The Kegel muscle is a hammock-like collection of muscles that sit in the base of the pelvis. It’s connected to the pubic bone at the front and the coccyx bone at the back, supporting the bladder and bowel in men, plus the uterus in women.
The Kegel muscle is also part of the muscle group collectively referred to as your ‘core’. There’s a lot of attention on core strength these days. We now know a strong core can improve posture, balance and stability as well as protection from injury and assist with lower back pain.
The Kegel muscle plays an essential role in urine and faecal continence. It’s the muscle you use to ‘hold on’ if you’re not near a toilet or trying not to pass wind. A strong muscle will give you greater control and improve any urinary or faecal leaking.
As a bonus, kegel exercises will also improve erectile function and orgasm intensity.
Further, Kegel exercises don’t require any special equipment, clothing or even footwear. You can do them anywhere and anytime, including while driving, walking or even at work.
The first step is to locate the right muscle to clench. As described, use the muscle you’d contract to avoid breaking wind, squeezing from front to back and drawing up into the pelvis. Focus on keeping your buttock, thigh and abdomen muscles relaxed, otherwise they’ll take some of the load and reduce the effectiveness of the exercises.
If you’re having difficulty, try sitting on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground and hands resting on your upper legs. You can also feel to check you’re not squeezing the thigh muscles. If you're still having difficulty, lie down on a firm surface, like the floor, which takes the pressure of the organs off the muscle and will make it easier.
As a last resort, next time you’re in the toilet, try stopping or even slowing the stream of urine. That’s the Kegel muscle. Stopping and starting urine flow isn’t considered a good bladder habit, so once you’ve found the muscle, don’t keep repeating this.
Now you’ve located it, the exercises are simply a sequences of clenching, holding and releasing.
Like all exercises, it’s best to start slowly and build up the intensity and repetitions over time.
Start with clenching the muscle and holding for a count of three seconds – longer if you can manage it. Relax for three seconds and repeat. Aim for a set of ten. If the muscles feel fatigued, stop and do more later. You should do three sets of ten across the day.
If the muscle is very weak, lying down might be best, then over time try doing them sitting, then standing and finally, while walking
Once mastering the kegel exercise, most people don’t find the exercises difficult, but do find remembering to do them a challenge! Think of ways to trigger your memory throughout the day by associating them with other regular daily activities. Examples are:
Done correctly, you should begin to notice an improvement in urine, faecal and wind control within around three weeks.
If you don’t see any progress or aren’t sure if you’re performing the exercises correctly, make an appointment with you doctor. They can refer you to a continence physiotherapist who’ll check your technique, and give you an exercise plan.
Once you are achieving results, keep going. Like all muscles, once toned, they require continual work to maintain the strength achieved.
In addition to Kegel exercises, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to ensure your pelvic floor muscle stays strong, such as:
A weak pelvic floor may be causing stress incontinence. That means that when pressure, or stress, is exerted on the bladder and pelvis, the muscles can’t withhold urine, resulting in a leak. Kegel exercises will correct this, but in the meantime, you may feel more comfortable with a discreet, absorbent product. While men may find the idea of a ‘pad’ very disconcerting, these days there are products specifically and anatomically designed to for males. You can read more in this article, Understanding Incontinence Pads for Men, which includes tips on the right underwear, placement, changing and disposal, as well as busting plenty of myths.
If you’re experiencing just a few drops of leakage, TENA Shield may be a good option. They’re black, super-thin (only 3mm) and anatomically shaped, a bit like a protective cricket box. They’re soft, absorbent and breathable, fitting snugly and invisibly into the front of your regular briefs (not boxers).
For more protection, check out the range of TENA Guards. Like TENA Shields, they’re anatomically shaped, soft and comfortable. These are available in three levels of absorbency. For a more comprehensive comparison of these products, head to this article; TENA Shield and TENA Guard – What’s the Difference?
It’s reassuring to know that all TENA products contain odour control. This isn’t a scent to mask any smells, but a technology that stops urine from being exposed to air, preventing odours from developing.
Deciding on the right product can be challenging. If you’re still uncertain, try TENA’s Product Finder Tool where you can also order free samples.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.