Thursday, February 5, 2009

Kegel Exercises for Incontinence

PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES- OR KEGELS for INCONTINENCE

Pelvic floor exercises also known as Kegel exercises if done regularly are the best treatment for stress incontinence that does not involve surgery. In order to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong you must continue to do these exercises.

Since your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder and your womb, they also help close your bladder and the urethra that carries urine from your bladder to the outside. If you exercise these muscles they get stronger. So you're less likely to leak urine from your bladder. So, kegel exercises make your pelvic floor muscles stronger.

Some people use biofeedback to help learn where their pelvic muscles are and to make sure they're doing these exercises correctly. A nurse can put a monitor in your vagina or rectum and when you do the exercises a sound goes off or an image appears on a screen.

If you have stress incontinence, the muscles that support the opening of your bladder and keep it closed are weak. When there's extra pressure on your bladder and these muscles (for example, when you cough or sneeze), your bladder can't stay closed. So drops of urine leak out of the tube that carries urine from your bladder.

If you do them the right way, Kegel exercises can help you prevent or control urinary incontinence and prepare for childbirth.



MayoClinic.com states that many conditions put stress on your pelvic floor muscles:
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Being overweight
  • Aging
  • A chronic cough
  • A genetic predisposition to weak connective tissue

Kegel exercises are recommended especially during pregnancy. Well-toned pelvic floor muscles may make you more comfortable as your due date approaches. You may be less likely to develop urine leakage — common near the end of pregnancy and prone to persist after you've given birth.

Finally, Kegel exercises — along with counseling and sex therapy — may be helpful to women who have persistent problems reaching orgasm.

HOW TO DO KEGEL EXERCISES?

  1. It takes diligence to identify your pelvic floor muscles and learn how to contract and relax them. Here are some pointers: Find the right muscles. To make sure you know how to contract your pelvic floor muscles, try to stop the flow of urine while you're going to the bathroom. If you succeed, you've got the basic move.
  2. Insert a finger inside your vagina and try to squeeze the surrounding muscles. You should be able to feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward. Then relax your muscles and feel your pelvic floor move down to the starting position. As your muscles become stronger — and you become more experienced with the exercises — this movement will be more pronounced.

But don't make a habit of starting and stopping your urine stream. Doing Kegel exercises with a full bladder or while emptying your bladder can actually weaken the muscles. It can also lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder, which increases your risk of a urinary tract infection.

If you're having trouble finding the right muscles, don't be embarrassed to ask for help. Your doctor or other health care provider can give you important feedback so that you learn to isolate and exercise the correct muscles.

Perfect your technique
Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and sit or lie down. Then:

  • Contract your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Hold the contraction for three seconds then relax for three seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.
  • Once you've perfected three-second muscle contractions, try it for four seconds at a time, alternating muscle contractions with a four-second rest period.
  • Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

To get the maximum benefit, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles or isolating your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Also, try not to hold your breath. Just relax, breathe freely and focus on tightening the muscles around your vagina and rectum.

Repeat three times a day
Perform a set of 10 Kegel exercises three times a day. The exercises will get easier the more often you do them. You might make a practice of fitting in a set every time you do a routine task, such as checking e-mail or commuting to work.

Vary your technique with one of these methods:

  • Try sets of mini-Kegels. Count quickly to 10 or 20, contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles each time you say a number.
  • Visualize an elevator. Slow down the exercises, gradually contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles one at a time. As you contract, visualize an elevator traveling up four floors. At each floor, contract your muscles a little more until you reach maximum contraction at the fourth floor. Hold the contraction and then slowly release the tension as you visualize the elevator returning to the ground floor. Repeat 10 times.

If you do your Kegel exercises faithfully, you can expect to see some results, such as less frequent urine leakage, within about eight to 12 weeks. Your improvement may be dramatic — or, at the very least, you may keep your problems from worsening. As with other forms of physical activity, you need to make Kegel exercises a lifelong practice to reap lifelong rewards.

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