What are Incontinence Exercises?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.
A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.

Stress incontinence often occurs because the muscles that help control a person's bladder become weakened. These pelvic floor muscles can often be strengthened by performing different incontinence exercises. Kegel exercises are the one of the most well known methods for strengthening bladder muscles.

Kegel exercises are also referred to as pelvic floor exercises, incontinence exercises, or pelvic muscle strengthening exercises. Like most other muscles, when the muscles of a person's pelvic floor are exercised, they become stronger. When these muscles are stronger a person will usually have better control over her bladder. If done properly, most patients who perform incontinence exercises will see results within weeks or months.

Finding which muscles to work during incontinence exercises is often the hardest part for many people. For men and women both, these muscles can be found while urinating. The muscles that people contract to stop urination are the pelvic floor muscles. These are the ones that should be contracted during Kegel exercises.

A woman has another way of finding these muscles. She can insert two fingers in her vagina and try to squeeze. When she feels pressure on her fingers, she has found her pelvic floor muscles.

One of the best things about incontinence exercises is that they can be done just about anywhere and at any time. Most people who are around a person performing these exercises would never be aware. They are also considered to be quite simple to do. Experts recommend, however, that people who are just starting to do incontinence exercises start slowly. If the muscles are worked too much they could get too tired, which can make incontinence worse rather than better.

To perform incontinence exercises, a person should contract her pelvic floor muscles and hold for a few seconds. She can then relax them for a few seconds. This sequence can be repeated five to ten times at first. As time goes by, though, the amount of time that the muscles are contracted should be at least 10 seconds, and 20 repetitions of these exercises should be done. Ideally, these should be performed about three to five times each day.

Another variation on Kegel exercises is known as progressive Kegels. During these exercises, the first time the muscles are contracted, the contraction should be held for one second. The second contraction should be held for two seconds, the third time should be held for three seconds, and so on.

In addition to being incontinence exercises, Kegels also have other benefits. Gynecologists often recommend that women perform these to prevent prolapsed pelvic organs. They are also believed to increase sexual pleasure in women and possibly give men the ability to achieve stronger erections for longer periods of time.

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    • A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.
      A cutaway of a female body showing the bladder in dark pink.