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Definition: Kegel Exercises

Kegel Exercises - are a series of pelvic muscle exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. were originally developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel in 1948 as a method of controlling incontinence in women following childbirth. These exercises are now recommended for women with urinary stress incontinence, people who have fecal incontinence and women who feel lik their vagina has "stretched out". The principle behind Kegel exercises is to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, thereby improving the urethral and rectal sphincter function. The success of Kegel exercises depends on proper technique and adherence to a regular exercise program.

Some people have difficulty identifying and isolating the muscles of the pelvic floor. Care must be taken to learn to contract the correct muscles. Typically, most people contract the abdominal or thigh muscles, while not even working the pelvic floor muscles. These incorrect contractions may even worsen pelvic floor tone. Several techniques help the incontinent person identify the correct muscles. One approach is to sit on the toilet and start to urinate. Try to stop the flow of urine midstream by contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Repeat this action several times until you become familiar with the feel of contracting the correct group of muscles. Do not contract your abdominal, thigh, or buttocks muscles while performing the exercise. Another approach to help you identify the correct muscle group is to insert a finger into the vagina (in women), or rectum (in men). Try to tighten the muscles around your finger as if holding back urine. The abdominal and thigh muscles should remain relaxed. A woman may also strengthen these muscles by using a vaginal cone, which is a weighted device that is inserted into the vagina. She then tries to contract the pelvic floor muscles in an effort to hold the device the place.

These exercises can be performed any time and any place. Most people prefer to perform the exercises while lying down or sitting in a chair. After 4 to 6 weeks, most people notice some improvement. It may take as long as 3 months to see a significant change. A word of caution: some people feel that they can speed up the progress by increasing the number of repetitions and the frequency of exercises. However, this over-exercising may instead cause muscle fatigue and increase leakage of urine. If you feel any discomfort in your abdomen or back while performing these exercises, you are probably performing them incorrectly. Some people have a tendency to hold their breath or tighten their chest while trying to contract the pelvic floor muscles. Relax and concentrate on contracting just the pelvic floor muscles. By making Kegel exercises part of your daily routine, you will improve urinary control (both women and men), as well as vaginal tone. In your men, the additional blood-flow to the genitals due to exercising also helps with erections.

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