Kegels are Not the Answer for Everything
There is a common myth going around in regard to pelvic floor dysfunction: “Isn’t it all about Kegels?”
First, let’s start with defining the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor refers to layers of muscle that span the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic floor’s job is to:
- Support pelvic organs
- Help with urinary and fecal continence
- Help with sexual performance
- Stabilize the pelvis
- Aid with lymphatic and venous flow
Our pelvic floor is just like any other muscle in the body. It can contract, relax, get tight, or get weak!
What are Kegels?
Kegels are another term for a pelvic floor contraction. They are common to do when your pelvic floor muscles are weak. They have been prescribed frequently for those who have incontinence (accidental leaking of urinary or bowel movements) or pelvic organ prolapse (when one or more pelvic organs drop or press into the vagina), but they are not actually the answer for all incontinence or prolapse issues. Here’s why: when muscles are weak, we strengthen them, but not all muscle dysfunction and pain is a caused by weakness! It wouldn’t be effective to strengthen the whole muscle, especially if it’s tight! Just think: if you held your arm up all day, you wouldn’t be strengthening your shoulder muscles but rather making those muscles tired.
It’s Not Just About Strength
In addition, our pelvic floor is a part of our core which is also made up of our diaphragm, transverse abdominus (deep abdomen muscles), and our multifidi (deep back muscles). All these muscles need to work together to function at their best. Think about a can of soda (or pop or cola, whatever you call it!): before you open it, it has the perfect amount of pressure where it is not vulnerable to be crushed, but when it is opened it becomes vulnerable for injury.
This can be the same for our core. If there is an imbalance of weakness or muscles not working properly, our muscles are vulnerable. They can be overworked, become weak, or get tight. If you have an imbalance, it could mean that your pelvic floor could be affected, overworked, or weak! Making an appointment with a women’s health physical therapist at MOSAIC can help find any imbalances that you may have contributing to your pelvic symptoms.
Research shows that only 60% of participants correctly performed a Kegel when asked. Forty percent did not perform a correct Kegel, and of those, 25% displayed a urinary incontinence promoting technique. With these numbers, you have another good reason to make an appointment with a physical therapist trained to address women’s issues. Check out another MOSAIC article to learn more about the pelvic floor and “peezing”.
Kegels aren’t just for women. If you are a man and having similar issues, read this article from the Mayo Clinic to learn more.