When NOT to do Kegels

As women, we often read and hear how important doing kegels is, especially around the childbearing years.  In fact, I bet it is safe to say that the majority of women have been told to do kegels at some point in their life.  However, have you ever been told NOT to do kegels? A kegel is a pelvic floor contraction in order to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (similar to a bicep curl for your arms).  While strengthening this group of muscles is important, there are certain times or situations where doing kegels could have adverse effects. Read on to learn when NOT to do kegels:

Your pelvic floor muscles are tight and overactive.

Most people think that if they are leaking urine, their pelvic floor muscles must be weak (and they have most likely been told a time or two to do kegels to fix this).  However, incontinence can be more complex than simply strengthening the muscles (aka doing kegels). Some women have muscles that are too tight and working too hard. This tightness is more common than you might think and is found most often in women who are active with exercise, under a lot of stress, or dealing with pain.  Tight muscles also cannot function properly, so you may experience leaking because they are not able to contract enough to keep everything in. When the muscles are too tight, doing kegels will only make them tighter. If you aren’t sure if your muscles are too tight, a pelvic floor physical therapist can assess them and also release them if they are too tight.  You can talk to one of our physical therapists by filling out this form here.

You have pelvic or abdominal pain.

Pain can be an indicator of tight, overactive pelvic floor muscles, and as we mentioned above, kegels will only make the issue worse.  Pelvic and abdominal pain is often more complex than simply “doing kegels” to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. It typically requires more hands-on treatment to alleviate the pain.

When you are going to the bathroom.

How many times have you been told to practice your kegels while you are going to the bathroom?  The problem with kegels in this scenario is that in order to stop the flow of urine, a kegel does not activate the important, deeper pelvic floor muscles (yes, there are many layers of muscles in there).  The other issue is that the muscles are being trained to contract during voiding, which is a time when they should be relaxing. Over time, this can teach your muscles to go to the bathroom even if the muscles are contracted.  If you continue this habit, you may find that one day you are taking a walk outside and leak urine because your body doesn’t know the difference between when to go and when not to go.

You aren't sure how to do a kegel.

It’s okay, we’ve all been there when we try to do a kegel and think “am I even doing this right?”  Kegels are hard! And it takes a lot of coordination to do them correctly. If they were easy, everyone could do my job, right?  So if you are practicing your kegels and have no idea what you are doing, then stop doing them and come learn the correct way from a pelvic floor physical therapist.  I’ve heard that 80% of women do kegels incorrectly, so don’t feel bad - they really are more complicated than people make them out to be.

If you are experiencing any of the above situations, or continue to have pelvic floor dysfunction, click here to fill out our form and get a chance to talk to one of our physical therapists.  We can help you determine what the underlying issue is and the best way to resolve it quickly so you can be healthy and active without worrying about leaking or having pain.

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