Updated: Dec 3, 2021
As soon as people hear I am a pelvic floor physical therapist, I am bombarded with questions. It's something that so many people have problems with, but hardly anyone treats it. And even fewer know that they should probably go and get treatment. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, "well, I only get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom because I drank water before bed" I would be a millionaire. In case it wasn't already clear, no, that's not normal and you should probably talk to a pelvic floor therapist.
But another common misconception is that the Kegel is a good exercise for everyone.
The Kegel exercise and pelvic floor therapy have almost become interchangeable. It seems to be the only exercise or remedy the layperson knows for helping with pelvic floor dysfunction. But it's not always an appropriate exercise.
So how exactly do you know if the Kegel is the right exercise for you?
Let me start by saying I have had many people report to me that they have been doing Kegel exercises to help with their bladder symptoms and do not see much improvement.
There are many reasons why a Kegel may not be helping symptoms, but I'm going to focus on the main TWO. Those reasons are:
You are probably doing the Kegel incorrectly OR
Your pelvic floor muscles are already too tight and the Kegel is just making things worse
So if you've been experiencing symptoms that may be caused by pelvic floor dysfunction and Kegels haven't been working for you, you may benefit from doing an exercise called the REVERSE KEGEL.
What exactly is the reverse Kegel, you ask? Well, it's what it sounds like. The reverse Kegel is an exercise that helps you relax your pelvic floor muscles rather than tighten them. I am including a handout walking you through the reverse Kegel for women here and for men here!
If you are struggling with the exercise, there are a couple of exercises you can try first to progress up to the reverse Kegel:
Child's Pose Stretch
Happy Baby Stretch
Deep Squat Stretch
It's important not to underestimate the power of breathing. Taking time to have breath awareness and listen to your body can help you get in touch with and relax your pelvic floor muscles. All of these exercises help bring awareness to the pelvic floor muscles and assist in lengthening and relaxation. So once you master these, you can go back to the reverse Kegel and see if it's easier for you to perform
If you're having symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, it's, of course, always best to seek out a pelvic floor therapist. They can help diagnose your concerns and give you the appropriate exercise for you. Remember, everyone is different and it can take time to find the right exercises and treatments that are best for you and your specific needs!
Dr. Yvonne Huang