Julian Whitaker, MD
Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles used to control and support the bladder, urethra, uterus, and rectum. They were originally developed in an effort to control incontinence post childbirth but have also proven to be an effective remedy for stress incontinence. The pelvic floor muscle, or the pubococcygeus muscle (PC) can be contracted and released multiple times to strengthen it and over time build better control over bladder function.
How Do I Locate the Proper Muscles to Exercise?
One of the most important factors in Kegel exercises is to locate the correct muscles. The most common approach is to sit on the toilet and begin to urinate. Attempt to stop the urine mid-flow. Try to isolate only the muscles necessary to do this. Do not tense your buttocks, abdominal, or thigh muscles as doing so will bring your attention to the wrong muscle group.
(Ladies, if you are still having trouble, try inserting a finger into the vagina and tightening your muscles around your finger. The muscles used to “hug” your finger are the ones you need to focus on.)
How Do I Perform the Exercises and How Often Should I Do Them?
Start by doing the exercises for five minutes a day, twice a day. Contract the PC muscle for a count of four and then relax for a count of four, and continue to do so for the full five minutes. Over time, try to build to counts of eight both contracting and relaxing.
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that they can be done anywhere—in bed, on the sofa, even in your car. The important thing is that you devote the time each day to doing them. As with any exercise, it takes time to build up to the desired results. You should begin to have more control over urine loss in six to 12 weeks. If you do the exercises more often, results should be seen sooner.
For women, Kegel exercises not only strengthen pelvic muscles but can help restore vaginal tightness which can improve sensation during intercourse.
For men, strengthening these muscles may have the added benefit of aiding in some areas of erectile dysfunction such as premature ejaculation and ability to sustain an erection.
Complementary Treatments for Stress Incontinence
Although Kegel exercises over time may prove to be an extremely successful treatment for urinary stress incontinence, acupuncture has also been shown to have nearly immediate and long-lasting efficacy. A “double-whammy” approach using a couple sessions of acupuncture, along with Kegel exercises, may eradicate stress incontinence.
- To make an appointment to receive acupuncture at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2006. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.