KEGEL OR NOT TO KEGEL?
When women are diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction, often the immediate go to exercise prescription given to them are kegel-based programs to strengthen their pelvic floor.
So many of us have been told to dutifully do our kegels after giving birth to make sure things stay where they belong. Then as we go through menopause, we get told to kegel our little hearts away for sex to continue to be enjoyable.
What is a kegel anyway? A kegel by definition is a muscle contraction of the group of muscles of the pelvic floor. This exercise can be performed multiple times a day, for one to three months to begin to have an effect.
When you have a weak pelvic floor, kegels, when done correctly can be fantastic. But if you have a pelvic floor that is too tense, kegels can actually do more harm than good.
Before starting on any kind of pelvic floor program, it is very important to be assessed by an experience pelvic health physiotherapist to get a better understanding of how your pelvic floor is functioning. Getting checked will give you the information you need to either move forward with a ‘kegel’ based program or whether to stay away from it completely!
So to answer ‘the million dollar question’, kegels can be an amazing component of pelvic floor rehabilitation programs, but they are not for everyone. They are certainly not the end-all be-all of a pelvic floor exercise program. A kegel is simply an exercise. We can use it to strengthen the pelvic floor but we should also be aware of how to relax and lengthen these same muscles. Sometimes treatment will involve kegels and some treatments won’t, but it always involves awareness of what these muscles are doing at rest and during functional activities.