It can be hard to tell… One study shows about 25% of us perform pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegels) improperly following purely verbal cues (Bump et al, 1991). A good pelvic floor muscle contraction should feel like you are bringing together the ischial tuberosities (sitz bones) while also drawing together the pubic bone and tailbone. It should not feel you are bearing done or pushing out in any way. And muscles need oxygen! Calm, steady, abdominal breathing should be maintained throughout the contraction.
Another important consideration is that the muscles of the pelvic floor consist of both slow and fast switch muscle fibers. Slow twitch fibers maintain the structure and stability whereas fast twitch take care of the sphincters and orgasms. All pretty important stuff! Slow twitch muscles benefit from endurance training while fast twitch muscle fibers are strengthened by quick repetitions.
There are several products on the market for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, with a whole range of prices. Prior to purchase, it can be very helpful to have your own personal trainer (Pelvic Rehabilitation Specialist) to learn how to access and strengthen your pelvic floor, as well as to assign appropriate exercises with an eye toward progression of intensity.
Sometimes, Kegels aren’t really what is needed for improved function. Like every other muscle in our bodies, the muscles of the pelvic floor can be strengthened or lengthened, can become weak or spasm, can get too tight and cause pain or be too lax to do the job properly. Pelvic floor dysfunction manifests in a multitude of different ways: urinary or fecal incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sex), other pelvic pain, anterior or posterior vaginal wall prolapse, low back or hip pain….
To find out if we can help you, we invite you for a free consultation with our Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Linda Anzalone. Call us at 503-287-4970.