This post was written by Margaret Bronson, supervisor outpatient therapy, Parkview Therapy Services.
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, are designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which are located at the bottom of the pelvis between the coccyx and the pubic bone in men and women. While there are use cases for both genders, Kegels are mentioned in relation to female care recommendations more often, with good reason. A recent study shared by Nature Journal found that, out of a sample of 25,425 adult women seen in a primary care office, 32% had at least one pelvic floor disorder. Let’s examine some of the instances when working these muscles is beneficial, as well as some where it’s not advised.
Who can benefit from Kegels?
There are several populations that stand to benefit from strengthening the muscles in their pelvic floor. These include:
- Pregnant and postpartum women – The pelvic floor muscles are put under a lot of stress during pregnancy and childbirth. Pelvic floor exercises can help prevent urinary incontinence, pelvic floor prolapse and other pelvic floor issues that can arise in expecting mothers, both while carrying baby and postpartum.
- People with urinary incontinence – Pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen the muscles that control the bladder, reducing leakage of urine with coughing, sneezing and exercising.
- Women with pelvic floor prolapse – Kegels can help support the pelvic organs and reduce the severity of prolapse symptoms when addressed early.
- Athletes – Strengthening the muscles in the pelvic floor can help with core stability and supporting the pelvic organs during high impact activities such as running and jumping.
While pelvic floor exercises are generally safe and beneficial for many people, there are some instances when they may not be appropriate. Kegels are not recommended for …
- People with acute pelvic pain – If you are experiencing this symptom, seek medical attention to rule out other reasons for the pain. If pelvic physical therapy is indicated, you will likely need pelvic floor lengthening exercises and relaxation techniques.
- People with constipation or urinary retention – Sometimes these conditions are related to tight or overactive pelvic floor muscles. In these cases, strengthening may make the condition worse. Your pelvic floor therapist will likely give you strategies and behavioral techniques to help you relax the pelvic floor muscles and improve your bowel and bladder function.
- People with urinary incontinence – That’s right, this one appears on both lists. It’s important to work with a knowledgeable provider for a treatment plan, as Kegels may not be indicated in cases where leakage of urine is due to pelvic floor muscles that are working too hard, and fatigue too soon, resulting in an inability to control urine.
Again, pelvic floor strengthening exercises can be an important part of improving pelvic health, but it’s best to consult with a pelvic physical therapist and your healthcare provider to determine whether your condition would benefit from Kegels or relaxation and lengthening exercises would be the better option.