Kegel exercises are to keep your pelvic floor muscles (PFM) toned or to strengthen them. What are pelvic floor muscles, you ask? The PFM are a layer of muscles that stretch from the pubic bone to the coccyx (tailbone). They act like a hammock, if you will, that supports your pelvic organs. These include the bladder, bowel, and uterus (if you have one!).
These muscles help you control urination (peeing), bowel movements (pooping), and flatulence (farting), among other things.
When the PFM is contracted, the internal organs are lifted and the openings of the vagina, anus, and urethra are tightened.
Before I get into it – please note that if you are having any symptoms or issues, you’ll want to get the advice of a doctor. They can confirm if you have a weakened pelvic floor or one that is hypertonic (too tight). If needed, your doctor can refer you to a physical therapist or continence professional to determine the cause and instruct you with exercises to target your specific needs.
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Weakened Pelvic Floor
If your PFM are weak, you may not be able to control them very well, resulting in one or more problems such as:
- Incontinence – leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, etc.
- Sudden or constant urges to urinate
- Feeling as if you didn’t empty your bladder or bowel completely
- Uncontrollable flatulence, either from the anus or vagina
- Reduced or painful sensations
- Sliding of a tampon or menstrual cup
- Bulge at the vaginal opening (prolapse)
- A feeling of heaviness in the vagina (prolapse)
Some people can experience weakened PFM at an early age. Some others only notice issues after certain life events such as pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause. Others still have experienced weakened PFM due to obesity, chronic constipation, surgery, constant coughing, and heavy lifting.
Strengthening your PFM will help you gain support and control for your bladder and bowel, reducing the likelihood of incontinence issues.
If you’re unsure where your PFM are located, one of the easiest ways to consciously control them is to stop or slow the flow of urine midstream. Hold it for a second or two, and then relax to continue. The muscle that you feel tighten around your vagina and anus is the muscle that you want to target.
Once you know where these muscles are and how to control them, you can do Kegel exercises at any time without anyone knowing.
Hypertonic Pelvic Floor
This is the opposite of a weakened pelvic floor in which the muscles are too tight and cannot relax. If you have hypertonic pelvic floor muscles and you perform Kegel exercises, you can make them worse. This is the importance of seeking the advice of a physician beforehand!
Having hypertonic pelvic floor muscles is also called nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction. A specific reason or cause for it is unknown. For some, it may have started in childhood. For others, symptoms may arise in adulthood when urine or bowel movements are voluntarily held, either out of habit, lifestyle, occupation, or previous bladder or bowel incontinence.
There have been several studies seeking to find a cause for nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction. Although these studies have included many different kinds of people, such as those who have been abused, people with scar tissue, those with conditions relating to nerves, those who have various exercise routines, people with anxieties, and many others, no specific cause for nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction has been found.
Symptoms of nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction can include:
- Sudden urges to urinate
- Leaking urine (tired muscles)
- Hesitate urination
- Painful urination
- Bladder pain
- Painful sex
- Pelvic aches after intercourse
- PFM spasms
- Lower back pain radiating to the thighs or groin
- Pelvic pain in general
Again, a physical therapist can help identify, target and suggest exercises to help.
Some techniques that may be used to help are:
- Trigger point massage
- Myofascial/tissue release
- Strain-counterstrain – alleviates muscle and connective tissue tightness
- Biofeedback – neuromuscular training in which patients learn how to contract and/or relax muscles
How to Exercise
One way to use a yoni egg is to insert it into your vagina and use your pelvic floor muscles to hold in place as you go about your day. However, if you’ve never done kegel exercises before, you probably won’t have the vaginal muscle strength to hold the stone egg in place that way. It takes a little time to build up that level of muscle strength.
To get started with yoni egg exercises, aim for about five minutes a day of kegels. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you’d use to stop the flow of urine midstream.
Insert the egg and then contract the pelvic floor muscles and hold for a count of five. Then relax for a count of five and repeat. Aim for about ten sets, three times a day. Once your pelvic floor muscle has gotten stronger, you can start to wear the egg while you do your regular activities. You don’t need to wear it all day, though, 20 minutes, four times a week is enough to maintain excellent muscle tone.
Relaxing is just as important as the exercise. It allows the muscles to recover and prepare for the next contraction. Repeat the exercise up to ten times, relaxing a few seconds in between. Doing this two to three times a day will help strengthen your PFM or keep them ton
After use, take the yoni egg out and wash it with soap and water. Dry it with a soft cloth. Keep any harsh chemicals away from natural stone eggs. For extra cleaning, you can use a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water.
Remembering to do these exercises can be hard. It’s not a part of the body that we see and think about. A great way to schedule a “workout” is to pair it with something you do on a daily basis, such as sitting in traffic, typing an email, watching your favorite show or news, waiting for dinner to heat, etc.
Physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor dysfunction may be found at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Web site (www.womenshealthapta.org/plp/)