Pelvic floor exercises, often called as the Kegel exercises (named after the obstetrician who developed them) or pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) are floor exercises that form one of the preliminary treatments for stress urinary continence (SUI).
The exercises are so designed to make the pelvic floor stronger and to enable the patient to be able to exert control over his/ her pelvic muscles.
The exercises were first certified to be efficient in1998 when a few Norwegian scientists carried out a six month trail on various treatments which could then be used against SUI. Pelvic floor exercises were found be the most efficient among others, namely electrical stimulation, vaginal cones and under conditions of no treatment whatsoever.
The pelvic floor exercises comprise of primarily three stages, which includes:
- Stage 1: Identifying the correct pelvic muscles
- Stage 2: Learning how to contract the muscles correctly
- Stage 3: Using fast and slow contractions
Stage 1: Identifying the correct pelvic muscles
First the correct set of pelvic floor muscles is identified in the patient.
Stage 2: Learning how to contract the muscles correctly
The movement followed is an upward and inward contraction, instead of that downwards.
Stage 3: Using fast and slow contractions
The pelvic muscles of the patient are trained to act as desired through repetition of slow and fast contractions.
Slow contractions aid in increasing the strength of the pelvic floor, which increases the capacity of the muscles to hold back urine.
Fast contractions aid the pelvic floor in coping up with the pressure exerted during conditions of fullness of bladder, sneeze, cough, etc.
Pros and Cons of practicing pelvic floor or the Kegel Exercises
The pelvic floor exercises may prove to be advantageous but suffer from limiting factors and setbacks also.
The pros of pelvic floor exercises
Certain advantages of practicing the pelvic floor exercise are:
- They are simple to learn and practice.
- They are cheap and do not require purchase of special equipments.
- They are effective and get working during a short span of time.
- They can be practiced while the patient is in almost any posture – sitting, standing or lying down.
- The exercises are simple to retain and remember.
- The exercises can be practiced without the use of vaginal cones.
The downside of pelvic floor exercises
While the exercises prove to be highly advantageous to the patient, they suffer from a few disadvantages also. Certain known disadvantages of practicing pelvic floor exercises are:
- The patient gets under an obligation to practice the exercises for the rest of his/ her life as a counter measure for stress urinary continence (SUI).
- It may take up to 15 weeks for a perceivable relief to be reported by the patient from the disorder.
- Relief factor relies greatly upon if the exercises are being practiced correctly, by following proper posture and the prescribed regime.
The exercises are best learnt from a continence adviser or a physiotherapist.