When you have leaking problems with exercise/coughing or prolapse with either your bladder or uterus from aging or from having kids at some point in your life, you are either told you “have to live with it”, have surgery, or do kegel exercises.
Really? No other solutions?
And you are frustrated with the solutions because they are not helping. And you actually are getting worse by the advice from the doctors.
Kegel exercises are the go-to exercise for anything that falls under women’s health, and it MIGHT BE MAKING YOU WORSE!
Why are Kegel exercises not the way to go?
For as long as can be remembered, kegels have been the go-to for pelvic floor rehabilitation after Dr. Arnold Henry Kegel created the exercise as a non-surgical approach to genital relaxation for women in the 1950s.
OB-GYNs have been prescribing kegels for most pelvic floor dysfunctions for nearly 75 years. Even a well-known fitness brand recently released a blog post about the importance of strengthening the pelvic floor, and guess what their #1 exercise was? You guessed it: KEGELS!
What is a kegel exercise?
This is a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, which is often used as a strengthening technique to help people with incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.
These are also frequently prescribed to pregnant women as a way to strengthening the pelvic floor as the body prepares to labor. The easiest way to perform a kegel is to imagine trying to stop the flow of urine mid-stream.
Before we get too far into why kegels may NOT be the best option as a treatment for you, let’s discuss what the pelvic floor is.
The pelvic floor is essentially a hammock of muscles from the tailbone to the pubic bone that holds up the bladder, uterus, rectum, and other pelvic contents. This group of muscles as well as a network of nerves, ligaments, and connective tissue contribute to core stability and help maintain the function of the bowel, bladder, and sexual systems.
How does dysfunction begin in the pelvic floor?
In the past, it was thought pelvic floor dysfunction was caused by weakness in the muscles that create the pelvic floor. Weakness in this area can lead to certain dysfunctions, such as leakage while sneezing, coughing, or jumping, frequent urination, or even pelvic organ prolapse where the pelvic organs begin to protrude from the body.
Generally, when we believe there is weakness in an area we think we need to strengthen it. Kegels help strengthen the weak pelvic floor, and performing them all day can help. Seems simple, right? Not exactly.
Typically, there’s a lot more happening than just pelvic muscle weakness, and over-performing kegels can lead to overly tight and activated muscles, known as hypertonicity, which opens a different door in the pelvic floor world that most people don’t intend on opening.
Just like you can carry extra tension in your shoulders or back when you’re feeling stressed, you also experience this in your pelvic floor muscles. And just like carrying extra tension in your shoulders and back can lead to headaches or back pain, extra tension in the pelvic floor can lead to pelvic pain.
Constantly performing kegel exercises essentially adds fuel to the fire.
Why is it so bad to have extra tension in the pelvic floor?
While having a strong pelvic floor can help with dysfunctions like leakage, it can also lead to the inability to completely empty the bladder, pain with intercourse, constipation, discomfort with exercise, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, and much more.
Further, when muscles are in this hypertonic or shortened position for too long, it leads to weakness. How is that possible?
Well, when a muscle is overly contracted and doesn’t fully relax, it never has the opportunity to fully squeeze. When the muscle is constantly “on” it never has time to recover.
Think about this with your leg muscles and holding a squat position. After holding that squat for a couple minutes like you would when performing kegels, you’ll struggle with walking up the stairs in your house.
Why is that? Because your muscles are exhausted and need to recover. The same goes for your pelvic floor.
Now you’re probably wondering “I was told by my healthcare provider to do kegels all the time. She said to perform them when I’m stuck at a red light, when I’m sitting on the couch, and when I’m watching my coffee brew, but now you’re telling me no more kegels, so what am I supposed to do instead?”
And that’s a great question! The answer is simple: MOVEMENT! Get your body moving and breathing correctly, and your pelvic floor will begin to function correctly.
Unsure what kind of movement is correct for you and your pelvic floor?
That’s also a very common occurrence. Speaking with a pelvic floor physical therapy specialist can accurately assess the pelvic floor and develop a treatment plan designed just for you and your body.
A pelvic floor physical therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation including postural, spinal, and pelvic neuromuscular assessments in addition to a pelvic floor assessment to determine which structures are involved and methods will be used to treat the issues.
It’s amazing how many different structures can be involved in a pelvic floor issue. The pelvic floor complex needs the assistance of the respiratory diaphragm that sits under the lungs, the lower abdominal muscles known as the transverse abdominal muscles, and the glute muscles to function properly.
Our pelvic floor physical therapist’s at mPower Physical Therapy is an incredible resource for taking back your life by providing appropriate therapeutic interventions and providing knowledge for long term self-care.
If you would like to speak to our Specialist for a Free 30 min consultation to learn more about why you are not getting the answers and learning more about how we can help you specifically, then CLICK HERE to set that up. But do not delay as we only have 3 spots per week available for this kind of appointment.
There you have it, kegels are NOT always the answer the pelvic floor dysfunction.
The answer may be more complicated than you initially thought, but there are providers out there that can help you with this. Pelvic floor physical therapists at mPower Physical Therapy in Dallas can make a huge difference with leading you to a healthy lifestyle without having to worry about pelvic floor dysfunction.
Remember if you live in the Dallas area, reach out to mPower Physical therapy to schedule a Talk to a Physical Therapist by CLICKING HERE to get the answers you deserve!