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Definition of Kegel Exercises
Kegel Exercises – a series of exercises to strengthen the pubococcygeal muscle, a figureeight double loop of muscle that forms the pelvic floor.
Arnold H. Kegel, MD, an American gynecologist who practiced in Los Angeles, California, popularized the pelvic muscle exercises that now bear his name when he developed a BIOFEEDBACK device called a perineometer in the 1940s.
Though urologists and gynecologists had been instructing women in the procedure of these exercises for over a decade as treatment for URINARY INCONTINENCE, most women had no idea whether they were doing them correctly.
The Kegel perineometer was the first device to measure the effectiveness of the cycles of contraction and relaxation of the pubococcygeal muscle. In conjunction with biofeedback, Kegel exercises became highly successful in resolving mild to moderate urinary incontinence in many women.
Performing Kegel exercises
- Identify the pubococcygeal muscle by stopping and starting the flow of URINATION or, for women, inserting a finger into the VAGINA. Women or men may benefit from BIOFEEDBACK methods.
- Begin with 10 repetitions of the complete cycle of contract, hold, and relax. Maintain each stage for 10 seconds. Repeat three times a day.
- As pubococcygeal muscle STRENGTH improves, increase the length of each stage to 20 seconds and the number of repetitions gradually to 50. Repeat three times a day.
Kegel exercises, also called pelvic floor exercises, today remain the most effective noninvasive treatment for urinary incontinence in women and in men after surgery to treat BENIGN PROSTATIC HYPERPLASIA (BPH) or PROSTATE CANCER. Many obstetricians recommend Kegel exercises to speed recovery after CHILDBIRTH. Kegel exercises are also often helpful for treating premature EJACULATION in men.
The exercises are very simple, consisting of cycles of contracting, holding, and relaxing the pubococcygeal muscle repeated several times a day. Once a person learns the exercises, he or she can perform them unnoticeably and when seated, standing, or lying down.
It is important to correctly identify the pubococcygeal muscle; the muscles of the buttocks, abdomen, and thighs should be relaxed when performing Kegel exercises. An easy way to learn to contract the pubococcygeal muscle is to consciously stop and start the flow of URINE when urinating.
BIOFEEDBACK remains the most effective means for determining whether the person is performing the Kegel exercises correctly, and a variety of biofeedback devices are available for home use. Women may also use a simple device called a vaginal cone. Most people begin to experience results in about six to eight weeks. It is important to continue regularly with Kegel exercises to maintain optimal pubococcygeal muscle tone and STRENGTH.
See also FECAL INCONTINENCE.