At Comprehensive Urology in Beverly Hills, one issue that our patients frequently share their concerns about is incontinence. Although rarely a major medical concern, it is often a source of major social embarrassment.
The board-certified urologists at Comprehensive Urology understand this. We also know that, while various treatments are available to address a leaky bladder, many patients want to avoid even minimally invasive treatment. One way to do this is by practicing Kegel exercises.
What are Kegels?
Kegel exercises are an excellent preventative measure against urinary incontinence. The exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which are crucial to staying continent. Symptoms of certain types of incontinence can be relieved with no side effects beyond sore muscles when first starting out, especially if you have never done Kegel exercises before.
What are the Benefits of Kegel Exercises?
Studies have shown that most types of incontinence can be corrected by a regular Kegel exercises routine (and not just stress incontinence):
- Stress Incontinence – urine leakage due to laughing, sneezing, coughing, jogging, running up stairs, lifting a heavy object, and other sudden actions
- Urge Incontinence (overactive bladder) – you have such a strong urge to urinate that you can’t hold it in before you reach the toilet
- Mixed Incontinence – (a combination of the two mentioned above)
In general, a leaky bladder is caused by weak pelvic floor muscles and the loss or lack of strength in these muscles can lead to loss of urine control. Moms are particularly vulnerable, as vaginal birth is strongly suspected of being directly linked to urinary incontinence.
Why Pelvic Exercises are Useful
Many people are not aware of what pelvic floor muscles are, where they are, and how crucial they are to urological health. One contributing factor to the weakening muscles is aging.
However, the muscles can also weaken from simple daily activities or habits as well as from a past activity:
- Previous surgery
- Chronic coughing
- Excessive straining (from constipation, for example)
- Being overweight
For women, pelvic floor muscles can also weaken during pregnancy and childbirth.
By doing Kegel exercises—which can be done anytime, anywhere (even during pregnancy)—patients can improve their urges to urinate, which can have an amazing effect on related self-esteem and social anxiety issues.
However, for people with overflow incontinence—unexpected leakage due to a full bladder overflowing—Kegel exercises are not as effective.
How to Guide for Stronger Pelvic Muscles
Kegel exercises are a great way to naturally regain control of your urges to urinate. If you learn these simple steps and then practice them regularly, you’ll notice renewed strength in the pelvic muscles as well as better control of a leaky bladder.
First, identify which muscles should be strengthened. Imagine that you are in a formal social situation and you have a strong urge to urinate that you are trying to suppress. The muscles you use to prevent either action are your pelvic floor muscles.
However, make sure that you’re not also squeezing or clenching your stomach, butt, or thighs.
Once you’re sure that you’re using only the pelvic muscles, you’re ready to strengthen them with Kegels.
The exercises involve regularly contracting, holding, and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. For more effectiveness, practice both short and long contractions and holds to build endurance as well as strength.
To practice sets of short-hold contractions: start by holding for one second and then completely relaxing. Do 3-5 holds with a short period of complete muscle relaxation between each contraction and hold. This is one set.
To practice long-hold contractions: start by holding for five seconds before completely relaxing the muscles. Do 3-5 holds with complete muscle relaxation between each contraction and hold. This is one set.
Mix the Kegel exercises up. Do a set of short holds followed by one of the long holds. For good results, do these sets 3-5 times through the day, and with each passing week, add 1-2 seconds to each set. As your strength grows, you can do five or more sets throughout the day. Eventually, you want to be able to comfortably and regularly hold your muscles for ten, fifteen, even twenty seconds each time.
It’s important that, between each contraction, you completely relax the muscles or they can become overworked.
The exercises are easy to do and can be done literally anywhere:
- Sitting in traffic in a car or on the bus
- Standing in the elevator or going up an escalator
- Waiting for the valet at your favorite restaurant in Beverly Hills
- In a chair at work
- In a meeting or at lunch
- On a park bench
- At the nail salon
However, doing Kegel exercises while urinating is NOT recommended, as it can injure the bladder.
By following a regular routine of Kegel exercises, you should have noticeably stronger pelvic floor muscles and a better, more consistent ability to control your urine urges within three months. Even better, you should have more confidence knowing you have this type of control again.
Learn more about strengthening the pelvic muscles with kegel exercises at WebMD.com.
To Learn More about Urinary Incontinence, Contact Comprehensive Urology
Incontinence can rob you of your sense of control over your body and urological functions, which can be disheartening and even socially embarrassing. However, the urological specialists at Comprehensive Urology have ways to help you manage incontinence for better physical and emotional well-being. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or call our Beverly Hills office at 310.499.2756.
In a nutshell: Kegel Exercises
- Help most types of urinary incontinence esp. stress and urge incontinence
- Can be done by anyone while not urinating
- Contract those muscles that you tighten to hold your urine in with (and not the buttocks, anus, thighs or stomach) in sets as described above and make it a habit