Kegel Exercises: What They Are and Do You Need Them?
by Courtney Virden
Most women and fewer men know of Kegel exercises and think women need to be doing them for a tight vagina. But do we really want our vaginal muscles to be tight? Are Kegels just for women, or can men do them too? Kegels are commonly recommended by physical therapists and health care practitioners for someone with pelvic floor dysfunction (yes, for both men and women) who have had a baby or wants vaginal tightness. Many think of Kegels as tight vagina exercises. But what do Kegel exercises do? Should we all do them, and if not, what can we do instead?
What do Kegel do exercises do?
Kegel exercises consist of concentric contractions tightening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. Similar to what you do to stop your urine for women using the muscles surrounding the pelvic organs. Because of the concentric contractions repeated, often many times a day, the pelvic floor muscles shorten and continuously become tighter. Concentric contractions are essential in pelvic floor strength, as do eccentric, lengthening contractions.
Imagine if you only do concentric hamstring contractions. The hamstring muscles become overly tight and dysfunctional, which can also happen to your pelvic floor. Tight muscles do not necessarily mean strong and tight muscles are often weak. A tight pelvic floor is referred to by many as a hypertonic pelvic floor and is common in both women and men. Our pelvic muscles function best when strong, responsive, and elastic. Our daily functions and movements are dependent on our pelvic floor health. Pelvic floor health plays a vital role in how we feel and how our bodies work.
Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms
A tight and overactive pelvic floor leads to many issues. Some of those are tailbone pain, pain with passing gas, lower back pain, pelvic pain, frequent urination, and constipation. Some even experience pain while urinating, which can also be from pelvic inflammatory disease. Interestingly, some of the same bladder and bowel issues associated with a hypertonic pelvic floor can also be associated with an overstretched or weak pelvic floor. The most common is urinary incontinence.
A lack of orgasm (or weak orgasms) and painful intercourse are common sexual issues. For many women, natural lubrication is needed for sensitive vaginal tissue to help with painful sex. And vaginal dryness also leads to painful sex. Another sign of a tight vagina for women is that their vagina feels tight and unable to relax. Men may experience erectile dysfunction or pain during ejaculation or an erection. These issues often start off slowly and get more severe with time.
Why are Kegels recommended for some men and women?
When you think of Kegel exercises, you likely think of women. Still, many reccomend Kegel exercises for men—often suggested to reduce pelvic floor issues, which impact at least one in four women and one in eight men. Yes, that is many people that need help. Since many OB-GYN offices do not treat pelvic floor dysfunctions themselves, recommending Kegels is an easy option with the intention of helping you. One of the top OB-GYN and fertility doctors I work with says most doctors never like hearing someone say they have symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. This is simply because they do not know how to fix the issues (now she knows). Referring to a specialist is done for learning pelvic floor therapy exercises and sometimes for internal and external physical therapy work.
Some people believe that vaginal dilators are needed. For some, they can be helpful, for others, they are unnecessary. Considering that the discomfort of using them prevents many from trying them, it is beneficial to know that most do not need them. There is an increasingly popular natural approach to treating the pelvic floor that is both simple and effective. The right at-home pelvic therapy program is becoming increasingly common for those seeking a solution. The right program is the key to restoring proper tone and function. It is also affordable, extremely effective, and for those embarrassed, an ideal solution.
What you can do for your pelvic floor
When you do pelvic floor exercises and programs, choose ones focusing on eccentric and concentric moves. Instead of tightness, we focus on making our pelvic floor strong, toned, and responsive. This increases pelvic floor health, improved posture, efficient movement patterns, and better sex. Even though you can't see these results, they're crucial for a healthy body. You will notice symptoms improving or resolving (if you have any). Added benefits include better posture, improved energy, and better sex.
Some people worry about finding the right muscles to train. But with appropriate guidance, time, and training, you will connect with your pelvic floor, use the correct muscles, and begin to feel it respond. The exercises in my sequenced online pelvic floor programs have both movements designed to build healthy pelvic floor muscles. Start now and get your strongest and most responsive pelvic floor.