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5 Pelvic Floor Exercise Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Aug 5, 2008
You've made the decision to start a program of pelvic floor (or kegel) exercises and you are raring to go. But you're sure there must be pitfalls, and you want to make sure you avoid them. After all, you want all the effort you are going to put in to bring success!

Let's look at the most common mistakes you are likely to make when you begin to exercise your pelvic floor muscles:

1. Incorrect exercise technique. Some studies have suggested that up to half of all women bear downwards when they first try to contract their pelvic floor muscles, especially if their muscles are seriously weakened. This is an easy mistake to make, but it is also a dangerous one, since pushing downwards with your pelvic floor muscles can weaken them still further. You can improve your exercise technique by careful, focused practice, but if in doubt, seek help from your doctor or from a women's health physical therapist. Appropriate exercise devices can also help. A vaginal probe with an indicator attached or a perineometer can provide feedback on a correct contraction and be valuable learning tools.

2. Using the wrong muscles. If you put some of your effort into the wrong muscles, your exercises will be less successful. Avoid tightening the muscles in the front of your tummy, or in your thighs or bottom. Concentrate on contracting your pelvic floor muscles only. Visualisation may help with this. Try imagining that you are trying to lift a marble up your vagina using the muscles of your pelvic floor.

3. Failing to use all the right muscles. Although you don't want to tighten the abdominal muscles down the front of your body, your deeper lower abdominal muscle (called the transversus abdominis or TA) is linked to the pelvic floor and should be contracted simultaneously with the pelvic floor muscles for maximum benefit. To locate the TA muscle, try visualizing a piece of string connecting the two points of your hip bones and drawing them together. A tightening deep in your abdomen, just above your pubic bone, will signal that you've found the right spot.

4. Holding your breath while you squeeze. This is another common mistake, which will prevent you from holding the contraction effectively. Try to continue relaxed breathing whilst focusing your full attention on your pelvic floor muscles.

5. Not having a regular exercise timetable. There's a lot of unhelpful advice around suggesting that you don't need a timetable for pelvic floor exercises, but can just fit them in when you are doing something else. The problem with that approach is that the exercises generally get forgotten, and if they do get done, they don't get your full attention. Ten effective contractions, done with full concentration and held for a count of 10 are far more effective than 30 half-hearted squeezes while you are waiting for a train. At least in the early days of your exercise program, allocate a fixed exercise time and stick to it. Research has shown that women who use an alarm to remind them are more likely to exercise regularly than those who don't.

So, to give yourself the best chance of success, make sure you know the correct exercise techniques, and give yourself the time to devote to your exercises.

Remember, technique plus time equals a stronger pelvic floor.
About the Author
Linda McClelland is the founder of Pelvic Floor Exercise, providing information, links, services and products to help both women and men worldwide achieve a stronger, healthier pelvic floor. Visit her at http://www.pelvicfloorexercise.com.au
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