I'm guessing you have probably heard about kegels a time or two in your life. Perhaps you were told by your physician or other healthcare provider to "just do some kegels" after you had a baby. Kegels are a pelvic floor contraction and work to strengthen the pelvic floor. While kegels do help to strengthen the pelvic floor, "just doing kegels" is not quite that simple if you want to put an end to incontinence or prolapse.
First, research has shown that over 60% of women are doing kegels incorrectly. If you aren't doing them properly, then they aren't doing anything for you. It is essential that you perform a kegel correctly if you want to strengthen the pelvic floor and stop having issues with incontinence. Part of my job as a pelvic floor physical therapist is to teach women how to do them properly so they can do them on their own.
Second, the pelvic floor muscles are composed of both fast twitch and slow twitch fibers; essentially quick contraction fibers and endurance fibers. Both types of fibers should be strong in order to prevent incontinence or prolapse. This is why we specifically check both the strength and the endurance of the pelvic floor during a kegel.
And third, in order to strengthen the pelvic floor, it must be progressively overloaded similar to how you would increase weight at the gym while doing bicep curls. Most people don't realize that the pelvic floor consists of muscles similar to everywhere else in our body. In order to strengthen those muscles, there has to be an appropriate exercise program for them. If you could only do 5 bicep curls, you wouldn't try to do 20 because there's no way you could have good form for all 20 repetitions.
It's also important to note that resolving incontinence is often times not quite as simple as just strengthening the pelvic floor. Often time, women will have hyper active pelvic floor muscles (aka tight and in spasm). In that case, kegels can make things much worse since the muscles are already working too much and kegels would be contracting them even more.
The best way to know what is best for you is to have it assessed by a pelvic floor physical therapist. There are a lot of people out there that say they treat incontinence but have not taken additional classes for it (which is needed to treat it effectively). If you have any questions about kegels or incontinence, please contact me and I would be happy to talk. We also offer a FREE consultation at the office to talk more in depth about your issues and how to fix them.