KEGELS AND FEMALE PELVIC MUSCLE HEALTH
Did you know that you have “sex muscles,” and that strengthening them can make sex better for you and your spouse?
A little history …
In the 1930’s, Dr. Joshua Davies developed exercises to help women overcome urinary incontinence problems. Later, in the 40’s, Dr. Arnold Kegel invented a “biofeedback” device (called a perineometer) that helped women to do these exercises more effectively. Kegel’s device enabled women to more accurately identify the pubococcygeal (PC) muscles, and gave them a way of measuring the strength and duration of the PC’s contractions during exercise.
As Dr. Kegel’s patients exercised and used the perineometer to combat incontinence, they reported greater satisfaction sexually, some even experienced orgasm, or orgasm during intercourse, for the first time in their lives. Dr. Kegel later reported in articles published during the early 50’s that, in almost every instance, there was a spontaneous improvement in his patients’ ability to respond sexually when they learned to strengthen and control the PC muscles.
In women there is a direct correlation between PC strength and the ability to orgasm during intercourse. Ease and intensity of orgasm from any form of stimulation are also increased by strengthening the PCs. For men stronger PCs result in greater ejaculatory control and more pleasurable orgasm. Strong PCs also seem to be a part of the reason some men experience male multiple orgasm.
The PC muscles run from the pubic bone in the front to the coccyx (tail) bone in the back. The muscles lie about an inch beneath the surface, supporting the pelvic organs like a hammock. Dr. Kegel used 3 different methods to identify the PC muscles in women:
- external examination – if you have fairly strong PC muscles, pulling up (as if to hold in urine) and pushing down (as if having a bowel movement) will cause the perineum to move in and out.
- digital examination – By pressing against the vaginal wall with a finger, you should be able to feel a ring of muscle that is about 1-2 inches in from the entrance of the vagina. The muscle may be anywhere from pencil thin to 3 fingers thick.
- use of a perineometer (aff link) – a device that measures the strength of PC contractions.
Other things that are helpful when identifying the PCs:
While examining the ring of muscles internally, try contracting around the finger (as if to hold in urine). You can also insert two fingers into the vagina, spread them apart, and contract your PC muscles to bring them back together again.
Interrupt the flow of urine – the muscles used to do this are the PCs.
Be aware of other muscle groups, so that you are not tensing stomach, buttocks or thigh muscles instead of the PC muscles.
Use of a resistance device is necessary for building strength and size in weak PC muscles. Woman can use a finger or object of similar size in the vagina. A perineometer can be an helpful tool as it acts as a resistance device, helps identify the PC muscles, helps you keep in touch with PC muscle activity as you learn control, and enables you to measure growing PC strength. A new type of perineometer is now available “over-the-counter.” The perineometer comes with instructions on how to use the device and how to exercise.
If you are using only a resistive device, the following exercise program is suggested:
- two to three exercise sessions a day
- 10 times – [squeeze 3 seconds, relax 3 seconds] – if 3 seconds is too hard begin with contractions of 1 or 2 seconds (do not skip the “relax” part of the exercise!)
- As you are comfortable with the exercise, begin to increase the number of sets of ten and increase the actual exercise to [squeeze 10 seconds, relax 10 seconds]. Consistency is an important factor as you’re working on developing a set of muscles.
– short flicks, squeeze and release as quickly as possible for a few minutes.
For most people it takes three to four weeks to begin to notice results. You will experience greater strength and control during exercises, and you may find sexual response becoming easier. Often your spouse will become aware of changes.
A word of caution – the exercises increase the blood flow to the genitals and often result in increased sexual awareness. Normally, this is a good thing, but it can result in emotional difficulty as the sexual awareness may trigger disturbing memories, guilt, or fears. These, of course, should be addressed with a compassionate friend or counselor.
Image Credit: © Bia Health