underwear with arms and legs concentrating to lift a weight

Keeegel or Kaaagel??

What is a Kegel and how do I pronounce it? Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how you pronounce it, it really just matters that you are doing these exercises of the pelvic floor muscles correctly. To be clear, a Kegel is a contraction of the muscles of the pelvic floor. But let’s back up because I have been working on a series of articles regarding post-prostatectomy erectile dysfunction and most people associate kegels with bladder control but the truth is, we believe that performing pelvic floor exercises may help improve erectile function postoperatively as well.

What does the pelvic floor do?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form the floor of the pelvis, hence “pelvic floor”. These muscles serve to support all your organs, (keeping them up inside of you), they contract to keep your bladder closed and relax to allow your bladder to empty. They do the same for your bowels too. AND, these awesome muscles also contract to maintain erections as well as contribute to the sensation of orgasms.

Just in case that isn’t enough, they are also a big part of what we commonly call the “core” muscles. If you ask me, I would say these muscles are the most important part of the core, but I am a pelvic floor physical therapist so I may be biased. Truly, why do we not all know all about these muscles since they have so many important functions??? I assume it is because we don’t like to talk about pee, poop, and erections with our neighbors.

Navigating information

There is a lot of information on the Internet that describes how to do pelvic floor exercises and much of it is good, but some of it is not. How do you figure it out? One of the most important things to remember regarding the strengthening of these muscles is to remember that the pelvic floor is just that...a group of muscles. We need to apply the same principles of strengthening these muscles as we do any of our other muscles.

So, if you read something that describes doing a very large number of kegels per day, think about what is necessary to strengthen your biceps (arm muscle) or your quadriceps (thigh) and realize that you don’t have to perform 500 bicep curls to achieve a change in muscle strength.

Start at your own pace

Another point is that people have different start points in performing any exercise program. For instance, regarding Kegels, some people may struggle just to feel the contraction which is understandable since you cannot see (without looking closely) anything happening. When you contract your biceps muscle, you see your arm pull up and your muscle bulge which is positive feedback that you are doing the exercise correctly. We all enjoy some positive feedback and it makes the learning process easier. Unfortunately, since you cannot see the pelvic floor muscles, we need to rely more on what the contraction feels like. You will want to start a program based on what you can currently do, not on a preset program (like doing 50 contractions at each stoplight).

Some key points:

  • Kegels are an exercise of the pelvic floor muscles
  • Strong pelvic floor muscles help with bladder control and erectile function
  • Performing these exercises correctly is important

Next article...how to kegel.

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