(Image by Intimia)
It’s safe to say that most people at some point in their lives will have heard of the kegel. How and when the topic is brought up will vary, but it is a term that is increasingly mentioned in doctor’s offices, social media, and even friend circles. For the most part, we know it has to do with something “down there” (*said in a hushed whisper*).
But what is a kegel? How do you know you can do one? and do it correctly?
The term ‘kegel’ originated from an American gynecologist named Arnold Henry Kegel. Dr. Kegel created a device called a perineometer which measured the electrical muscle activity of the pelvic floor. Like any creative inventor does, he decided to coin the term ‘kegel’ after his surname to describe a voluntary contraction of the pelvic floor.
In other words, a kegel is the movement of the pelvic floor where the muscles shorten concentrically to help support the pelvic organs in the pelvic cavity and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
When it comes to doing a kegel or pelvic floor contraction, there are many different cues you can practice to help engage the muscles. Visual imagery can be helpful to ensure the muscles are contracting globally, just be mindful that certain cues may work for one person and not another.
Here are some commonly used cues to help you start!
🍉 Imagine your vaginal muscles and anus are squeezing and picking up a blueberry
🍉 Visualize a string between your pelvic bones. Tighten the string by drawing your pubic bone to your tailbone, and sitz bones squeeze toward each other at the same time.
🍉 Engage the front muscles by imagining stopping your stream of urine. At the same time, imagine stopping the release of gas around your anus.
🍉 Visualize your muscles like elevator doors. Tighten the muscles as you imagine the doors closing, and as the elevator lifts up draw the pelvic floor muscles up.
You can start lying on your back with your knees bent, feet on the ground. Make sure no other muscles around the pelvis are engaging, and your breathing is relaxed. The only movement you should feel is around your perineum and vagina/anus when you contract. Feel free to try these out at home!
HOWEVER, the kegel is not the only movement of the pelvic floor. Like any other healthy muscles in the body, the pelvic floor needs to be able to have a strong contraction AND strong relaxation. Both of these movements are critical for a pelvic floor that functions properly. And for many people, just doing kegels is often the opposite of what they should be doing and can cause further dysfunction.
Physiotherapists who are trained in how to specifically assess the pelvic floor muscles are able to examine how well your pelvic floor contracts, as well as how well it lengthens and relaxes. This assessment is critical to ensure you are doing the proper pelvic floor exercises for what your body needs!
Head over to our website to book your first session with any of our practitioners to get your pelvic floor assessed and to receive a comprehensive program that consists of the proper exercises to fit your pelvic floor needs and to optimize your pelvic health.
Have YOU ever tried kegels at home? If so, how were you taught to do them or did you have your pelvic floor assessed before trying?
Let us know in the comments below!
Savanna Rowe, MPT
🍉 Registered Interim Physiotherapist
Bump Physio & Co is a community of health care providers dedicated to changing the way pelvic health and obstetrical services are delivered. Our two clinics locations are Port Moody and Langley BC, where we treat beyond the Bump and welcome clients from all stages and phases of life! Our team has advanced training in Pelvic Health, Orthopedics, Obstetrics, Clinical Pilates, and Active Rehabilitation.
Follow us along on our socials @bumpphysio to keep updated on all that is going on in the Bump Community, and for more information about how we can help YOU!
Kegel, A.N. The nonsurgical treatment of genital relaxation; use of the perineometer as an aid in restoring anatomic and functional structure. Ann West Med Surg. 1948. 2 (5): 213-6.
2021, Jan 5. Arnold Kegel. Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Kegel
2021. How to relax your pelvic floor. National Association for Continence. Retrieved from: https://www.nafc.org/bhealth-blog/how-to-relax-your-pelvic-floor
2021. The pelvic floor - overview and function. Physiopedia. Retrieved from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Pelvic_Floor_Anatomy