This information will teach you how to do pelvic muscle (Kegel) exercises.
The goal of Kegel exercises is to improve the muscle tone of the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support and hold the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, and bowel) in place. Exercises for pelvic floor muscles can help you:
- Manage or prevent urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine)
- Support the organs in your pelvis
- Relax your vaginal muscles
How do I identify my pelvic floor muscles?
- Imagine you are urinating, and contract the muscles you would need to stop the stream of urine. Do not actually start and stop urinating, especially if your bladder is full. This can actually weaken the muscles and lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder, which increases your risk of a urinary tract infection.
- Tighten the muscles that are used to hold back or prevent you from passing gas. If you are tightening the muscles of your buttocks or abdomen, you are using the wrong muscles.
- Try inserting a finger or dilator inside your vagina and tighten or contract your pelvic floor muscles. You will be able to feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward.
If you are having trouble identifying these muscles, speak with your doctor or nurse.
How do I know if I am using the wrong muscles?
Never use your stomach, leg, or buttock muscles. Exercising these muscles will not help you regain pelvic floor muscle tone. To find out if you are also contracting your stomach muscles, place your hand on your stomach. Squeeze your pelvic muscle. If you feel your abdomen move, you are using the wrong muscles.
How do I perform Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises are very easy to do. You can do them anywhere without anyone knowing.
Once you have found the correct pelvic floor muscles using 1 of the suggestions above, do several Kegel exercise sessions a day.
For each Kegel exercise session, tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3 to 6 seconds; then, relax your muscles completely for 3 to 6 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times per session.
If your pelvic floor muscles don't start to tire, hold them for 6 to 10 seconds; then, relax your muscles completely for 6 to 10 seconds.
Where should I do the exercises?
Most patients prefer doing Kegel exercises when lying down on a bed or sitting in a chair. However, you should be able to do them in any position and in any place.
Can these exercises harm me?
These exercises can't harm you in any way. Most people find them relaxing and easy. If you feel pain in your back or stomach after you do the exercises, you are probably trying too hard and using your stomach or back muscles. If you are getting headaches after doing the exercises, you may be tensing your chest muscles and holding your breath.
What if I need more support or information about sexual health and intimacy?
If you need more support and information about these issues, please talk with your nurse or doctor about the MSKCC Female Sexual Medicine and Women's Health Program. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (646) 888-5076.
The Female Sexual Medicine & Women's Health Program provides services at the following locations:
Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion
160 East 53rd Street
Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center and MSKCC Imaging Center
300 East 66th Street
What if I have severe pain or continued incontinence?
There are some physical therapists at MSKCC who specialize in women's health and can address the causes of pain or dysfunction in the pelvic floor area. If you are experiencing these problems, ask your doctor or nurse for a referral to see a physical therapist who specializes in women's health at the following location:
Sillerman Center for Rehabilitation
515 Madison Avenue, 4th Floor (Entrance on 53rd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10022