Kegel Exercises

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Kegel Exercises

Topic Overview

Benefits of Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises strengthen some of the muscles that control the flow of urine. Doctors often prescribe Kegel exercises for people who have bladder control problems (urinary incontinence).

Kegel exercises are also called pelvic floor exercises because they treat and prevent pelvic floor weakness.1, 2 The pelvic floor is a "hammock" of muscles that hold the pelvic organs in place.

See a picture of the pelvic floor muscles.

In women, Kegel exercises are helpful for those who have stress incontinence or uterine prolapse.

During pregnancy and delivery, the pelvic floor can become stretched and weakened, commonly causing urine control problems for months to years after childbirth. A weakened pelvic floor can also allow one or more pelvic organs to sag (uterine prolapse). If you are pregnant, start doing daily Kegels and continue them after having your baby.

In men, Kegel exercises are used to treat stress incontinence and urge incontinence, a need to urinate that is so strong that you cannot reach the toilet in time.

Performing Kegel exercises

  • Kegel exercises are easy to do and can be done anywhere without anyone knowing.
  • First, as you are sitting or lying down, try to contract the muscles you would use to stop urinating. You should feel your pelvic muscles squeezing your urethra and anus. If your stomach or buttocks muscles tighten, you are not exercising the right muscles.
  • When you've found the right way to contract the pelvic muscles, squeeze for 3 seconds and then relax for 3 seconds.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times per session. Try to do this at least 3 times a day. Kegel exercises are only effective when done regularly. The more you exercise, the more likely it is that the exercises will help.
  • Your doctor may want you to try doing your exercises with biofeedback to make sure you are doing them right. Biofeedback allows you to see, feel, or hear when an exercise is being performed correctly.

References

Citations

  1. Mørkved S, et al. (2003). Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy to prevent urinary incontinence: A single-blind randomized controlled trial. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 101(2): 313–319.
  2. Lentz GM (2007). Physiology of micturition, diagnosis of voiding dysfunction, and incontinence: Surgical and nonsurgical treatment. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 537–568. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised July 15, 2010

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