If you leak urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough, exercise, or lift something heavy, you may have a condition known as stress incontinence.
Stress incontinence is a common condition that can affect women (and men) of any age. It happens when the muscles you use to hold in urine get weak.
If you have stress incontinence, doing a certain type of exercise known as pelvic floor exercise can help. Your care providers at Associates in Women’s Health would like you to know more about pelvic floor exercises, including what they are and how to do them.
Your pelvic floor
Your pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles that support the organs in your pelvis, or lower abdomen, including your bladder, vagina, uterus, and bowels.
The muscles in your pelvic floor can become weak because of a variety of reasons, including pregnancy, childbirth, being overweight, having certain types of surgery, or taking certain medications.
Both men and women can experience urinary or fecal incontinence because of weak pelvic floor muscles.
Strengthening pelvic floor muscles
Doing specific types of exercise can help strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, leading to a reduction in stress incontinence. Pelvic floor exercise include the following:
These exercises strengthen the muscles around your urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of your body from your bladder. Strengthening these muscles can help prevent urine from leaking when you laugh, sneeze, or exercise.
To do Kegel exercises, you simply tighten and relax the muscles that you use to stop urine from flowing.
Here’s a more specific guidelines for how to do Kegel exercises: After emptying your bladder, lie down or sit in a comfortable position. Make sure the muscles in your abdomen, buttocks, and legs are relaxed. When you’re ready to start, tighten your pelvic floor muscles, and hold the squeeze for a count of 10. Then, relax for a count of 10. Repeat the tightening/relaxing process 10 times.
For best results, you should do Kegel exercises three to five times a day. You may start seeing improvements in four to six weeks.
Some women make a habit of doing Kegel exercises on a regular basis and at a regular time, such as every morning upon waking, every evening before going to bed, or whenever they’re stopped at a red light.
Vaginal cone exercises
Another way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles is with a vaginal cone. You insert the cone into your vagina and squeeze your muscles to hold it in place. Then, you “carry” the cone inside you for 15 minutes at a time, twice a day, holding the muscles tight to keep it from coming out.
Pelvic floor physical therapy
Another option is to see a physical therapist who is specially trained to help clients strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
Physical therapists sometimes use a procedure known as biofeedback to help patients effectively perform pelvic floor exercises. Using electrodes placed in the vagina or anus, biofeedback helps you isolate and work your pelvic floor muscles.
When exercise and other interventions don’t work, patients may consider having surgery. However, pelvic floor exercises can often improve stress incontinence.
Learn more about pelvic floor health
If you’re experiencing incontinence, call Associates in Women’s Health for an appointment. We provide diagnostic and treatment services, as well as information on pelvic floor exercises and surgery. We can help you find relief, so you can laugh, sneeze, and exercise without leaking urine.