In 1956, Arnold Kegel described the exercises that bear his name. Kegel’s exercises are also known as pelvic floor training.
These exercises help to develop strength and awareness of the supporting muscles of the pelvis, which are intimately related to bladder and rectal function. For urge incontinence, it helps to unmask and facilitate local reflexes that inhibit unwanted bladder contractions. For stress incontinence due to slight weakness of the sphincter, increasing pelvic floor strength may help to combat exertional leakage if you are able to initiate contraction prior to a cough, sneeze, lifting or other exertion.
The technique begins by identifying the muscles of the pelvic floor (levator ani). In women, this can be done by feeling with a finger, the muscles to the side and floor of the vagina (pubococcygeus). Contraction of these muscles will cause the floor of the pelvis to rise. One should be able to do this without contribution from the abdominal or buttock muscles. It is helpful to begin learning the technique with practice in the supine (lying-down) position and progress to sitting and standing. While supine, the abdomen should not contract and the buttocks should not elevate with initiation of a Kegel's contraction. One can also localize this movement by attempting to slow or stop the urine stream during voiding.
When the correct movement is learned, two different types of contractions can be performed.
•Quick contractions: Tighten and relax the muscles as rapidly as possible.
•Slow contractions: Tighten the muscle and hold it for a count of 3-10 as you improve.
Be sure to completely relax the pelvic floor before initiating another contraction. One can perform sets of exercise in the morning and evening. The important thing is to set aside dedicated time for practice. This skill takes time to acquire and is only as valuable as the effort put towards mastering it. Results can be seen after as little as two to three weeks, but may not be fully appreciated for three to six months.
More Answers from Johns Hopkins Medicine