The pelvic floor has a significant responsibility to help support our 3 pelvic organs and to hold enough tension to help control our bladder. The muscles that run from our pubic bone back to our tail bone, that span the area between our two sit bones, and that encircle the three openings from our pelvic outlet are our pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are “on” throughout our day, working against gravity and intra-abdominal pressure. They are expected to be consistent, but lack the sheer bulk to ever be “big, strong” muscles. So when many of you have asked me about various “Kegel exercisers” that you have read about or seen advertised that help strengthen these pelvic floor muscles, my answer is consistently that you don’t need them. There are a couple of ways you can enhance the strength of your pelvic floor muscles beyond the 2-step Kegel exercise.
The first is to strengthen the muscles that co-contract with the pelvic floor. Strengthening your pelvic floor can occur through improving the coordinated muscle activation of all the muscles attached to the pelvis. These muscle groups that all work together are: your low back extensors (multifidi), your low abs (transversus abdominus), your inner thighs (adductors), and your deep hip rotators (hip external rotators such as gluteus medius, obturators, etc.). Learning how to co-contract all of these muscles will significantly help the strength and function of your pelvic floor.
The second way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles beyond what you can achieve through a 2-step Kegel exercise, is through internal electric stimulation. An electric stim unit helps improve your pelvic floor strength by maximizing the number of muscle fibers recruited. Often as we age, through prolonged inactivity or following muscle trauma, we are not able to voluntarily activate all of the available muscle fibers. These “dormant” fibers can often be re-awakened through artificial stimulation. An electric stimulation machine can jump start these fibers and get them firing voluntarily again. You can seek out a women’s health physical therapist in your area to begin an electric stimulation program or, if you prefer, you can order a home unit. The Kegel 8 home electric stim unit is the most popular device discussed on the prolapsehealth.com website. This website features many women who have tried several different treatments for weak pelvic floor muscles and give their candid review.
The final way to progress strength of your pelvic floor is to focus on your posture. It is important to keep a healthy tension in the muscle fibers that make up your pelvic floor, and holding neutral spine posture ensures optimal position for your pelvic floor, making it more effective. I will refer you to one of my previous posture blogs ( http://hab-it.com/blog/?p=191 ) to help you understand the importance of how we position our body throughout our day to maximize muscle activity.
All of these methods that you can use to strengthen your pelvic floor beyond the 2-step Kegel exercise are the perfect focus when rehabilitating your pelvic floor. Adding additional weight or resistance to these strengthening exercises is too much for this relatively thin group of muscles and will more than likely result in muscle spasms, poor muscle substitution patterns, and/or significant muscle fatigue that can all lead to increased symptoms. You can’t make a thin group of primarily endurance muscles into big bulky muscles no matter how hard you try.
I’m surfing just now reading about those Kegel exercisers and wondering if they’re needed or useful, came here and started reading this blog post and Voila – there you are, Tasha, answering my questions like you’re reading my mind! 🙂
Wonderful! Thank you!
Question about the Kegel8 device – is it only available from the UK?
Glad we popped up in your browser just at the right time. Happy to help in any way! As for the Kegel 8…it is only available from the UK at this time. You can find it at http://www.stressnomore.co.uk/
Thank you Tasha! I have one on the way and am very very hopeful about it. I got such good results from using your DVD alone but due to a heavy work demand this month have been on my feet everyday and lifting. I must confess too, I was feeling so good and so normal again (and back to running) that I added some abdominal exercises to my workout.
I can hear you groaning. 🙂 I realized much later that ab exercises are a big no no when one has a prolapse. The combination of strain from those and being on my feet and lifting – it has really taken a toll.
I’m back on the wagon doing your exercises now and happy to have learned about the Kegel8. I think it’s going to be a great addition from everything I’ve read. I’m looking forward to an excellent spring of good health.
Thank you so much for all that you do, Tasha. I can’t pass up a single opportunity to thank you because your work is incredibly valuable. I tell everyone far and wide about you and your site. Prolapse effects SO MANY women – just an incredible number – and it has to be talked about so much more! I’m actively trying to educate young women – starting with my daughters – they have to understand this issue and get a jump on it early.
I’m so thankful I found you and more thankful you are doing such great work that was there to be found!
Glad you could hear my “groan” over the cyber waves when you talk about any abdominal exercise that brings you into flexion. I can’t be any more definitive when I tell you to avoid bringing your ribs closer to your pelvis. Read through this blog again http://hab-it.com/blog/?p=193
as a friendly reminder!
You will note that both Swiss Ball Slalom and Plank Hold with Knee Drive Rotation do bring in a little flexion, but I am taking you from the all important extended position and bringing you into slight flexion. No crunches, no sit ups, no breath holding…
You will find these abdominal exercises and more on the 7 Day program. Not only will these Advanced TA exercises help your pelvic floor but they will give you better abdominal definition than you ever had with a crunch…I promise!
Thank you, Linda, for allowing me to rant – all of these mistakes we all make and share will help other women.
It is a learning experience but more than that – it’s relearning and changing habits. Not easy to do but really really worth working at.
Thank you so much!