At the bottom of your pelvis are layers of muscles known as your pelvic floor. They are shaped like a hammock and connect to the front, back, and sides of your pelvic bone. Your pelvic muscles support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. They hold them in place and help control the flow of urine. For women, pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic muscles. For men, prostate surgery can weaken the pelvic muscles. Your risk also increases as you age and if you are overweight.
Weak pelvic muscles can cause you to leak urine. Luckily, there are exercises that can strengthen your pelvic muscles. These are called Kegel exercises. They can help you regain control of your bladder.
Path to improved health
You can do Kegel exercises almost anywhere, at any time. It is easiest to start off doing them lying down. As they become easier, you can do them while driving, working, or watching TV.
Before you start the exercises, you’ll need to locate your pelvic muscles. They are the same muscles you use to stop urine flow or hold in gas. To exercise, pull in (contract) or squeeze your pelvic muscles. Hold this for 3 to 5 seconds, then release and rest for 3 to 5 seconds. As you continue, you can increase the amount of time you hold and rest up to 10 seconds. Do 10 to 20 exercises 3 times per day.
You may not notice change in your muscles right away. As with other muscles in your body, it can take 4 to 8 weeks of daily exercise. Keep a log of your exercises to track your progress.
Things to consider
If you struggle with incontinence, try contracting your muscles after going to the bathroom. This can help ensure you have gotten all the urine out. Be careful though. Doing Kegel exercises mid-urination can cause a bladder infection.
You also should tighten your muscles before certain movements. This includes sneezing, coughing, laughing, jumping, or lifting a heavy object. The contraction can prevent pelvic muscle damage and urine leakage.
Talk to your doctor about Kegel exercises. They can help make sure you are doing them correctly. Keep them informed of your progress or if your problem isn’t improving. You may need another form of treatment, such as pelvic floor physical therapy or surgery.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Is a weak pelvic floor associated with other health issues?
- What does it mean to contract or tighten my pelvic floor muscles?
- Should Kegel exercises be painful?
- Will I always have to do Kegel exercises?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.