Though kegel exercises are not the only way to help treat pelvic floor conditions, these contractions are often a large part of a client’s program. Once in awhile, when a client is first seen in my office, I will hear that they know they can kegel because they can stop their flow of urine. Here is where I stop our conversation and try to explain why this isn’t a good practice.
Let’s get into a bit of our anatomy and function of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. When we drink, our bladder fills, easy so far! As our bladder fills, it stretches. There are stretch receptors in our bladder wall that send a message to the brain when they are stretched to a certain point. This is when we consciously realize that our bladder is full and we have to use the bathroom. At this same time, the brain sends a signal to the pelvic floor and sphincters to contract a little more so that we stay dry. Hopefully when you have this sensation you go to the bathroom, as holding too long and ignoring your cue that your bladder is full can cause a myriad of other conditions! As you sit to void you relax your pelvic floor and sphincters and once this happens your brain then tells your bladder to contract.
The bladder is made up of smooth muscle fibers. These are muscles that we cannot consciously contract, just like the heart muscle. So if the bladder is commanded to contract and empty by the relaxing of your pelvic floor, and you start to contract your pelvic floor while urinating, your muscles and brain will get confused. I do teach people that trying this once won’t hurt you and will give you an idea if you are contracting your pelvic floor correctly. But making it a habit to do kegel exercises while urinating is not healthy. There are other ways to check your kegels!
What I love about my work is that people have all sorts of questions about what is normal and what is recommended in different situations regarding urination, bowel movements or intimacy. We all need someone to ask at times. If you have a burning question, I’m sure others do as well! Send me an email and I may be able to use your question as a future blog post!
If you’re having trouble with bladder control, give me a call at 518-632-4944 to learn how specialized pelvic physical therapy can help!