Since kegels made their major debut a few years ago, they only continue to gain in popularity. With promises that they can help do everything from preventing urinary incontinence to improving orgasms, women—and men—of all ages are giving them a try. So while it may seem like everyone and their mother is doing them, kegels shouldn’t necessarily be taken lightly.
On the surface, kegels seem simple enough. All you have to do is squeeze and release your pelvic floor muscles, which are located between your hips and help to hold your reproductive organs in place. Overtime, the pelvic floor muscles naturally weaken which can lead to urinary and bowel incontinence, which is where kegels come in.
There’s no denying that kegels are an important part of any health regimen for both men and women. But before you go kegel crazy, Sheila Warren, RN, GMC's Health Navigator, provides a few cautions and helpful tips that you should know—even if you consider yourself a pro.
So, what exactly causes a weakening of pelvic floor muscles?
Women:While a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles is common for both women and men, there are a few things that only impact women, like pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
Men: Lucky for men, the primary cause of a weakening pelvic floor is simply age. However, prostate surgery can also come into play.
For both men and women, high-impact exercises, bowel straining, excess weight and a chronic cough can all take their toll on the pelvic floor.
Do the benefits of kegels vary between men and women?
Women: For women in particular, benefits include: support for the bladder, uterus, rectum and intestines; urinary incontinence control and prevention; childbirth preparation; minimizing pelvic pain symptoms; improving painful sex and intensifying orgasm.
Men: For men in particular, benefits include: support for the bladder, rectum and intestines, urinary and bowel incontinence control and prevention, diminished erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
What are the risks of doing kegels?
Women: Even if you’ve read several articles on how to correctly perform a kegel, it’s still easy to make these common, yet risky mistakes. The most frequent mistake is—you guessed it—working out the wrong muscle group. There’s a lot going on down there and it can be challenging to differentiate which muscles are which.
Another common mistake is squeezing too hard when trying to perform a kegel, which can be hard on your pelvic floor muscles, making it difficult for them to do their job.
Another big no-no many women overlook is the importance of doing kegels with an empty bladder. You don’t want to regularly do kegels with a full bladder or while going to bathroom as this can up the risk of a UTI.
Finally, and most importantly, women may be doing kegels with constricted muscles or an already-tight pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor muscles are constricted, you may end up making them more rigid, which may increase your risk of incontinence. If you have a pelvic floor that’s already toned, kegels aren’t necessarily going to help with some of the issues you may be experiencing, like pain during pelvic exams, difficulty emptying your bladder and unresolved pain in your lower back or pelvis.
Men: In this case, men face many of the same risks that women do. It’s important to note, though, that just like for women, kegels aren’t a cure-all for problems going on down there. When it comes to any ejaculatory or erectile problems, there could be a number of causes, not just pelvic floor strength.
Restore your pelvic floor.
Doing kegels now can help support lasting pelvic floor health. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. As an important part of reproductive health in both men and women, it shouldn’t be taken for granted. So, ladies and gentleman, it’s time to listen up and see your doctor. With a wide range of expertise, the providers at Gwinnett Medical Group Primary Care can help you tackle tough topics—incontinence and pelvic floor health included.