For decades, women have been performing pelvic floor exercises, or Kegel exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles and help control urinary incontinence. Now these same exercises can be performed for men who have the same problem.
How to do your Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Men experience a variety of problems with their urinary system, leading to unwanted leakage of urine. Often this is due to a weakness of the muscles of the pelvic floor, which have an important function in preventing these troublesome conditions. In particular, pelvic floor exercises have been shown to be effective following surgery on the prostate and when men experience a dribble after passing water.
The floor of the pelvis is made up of layers of muscle and other tissues stretching from like a hammock across the floor of the pelvis and attached to your tail bone (coccyx) at the back and to the pubic bone in front. The urethra (bladder outlet) and the rectum (back passage) pass through the pelvic floor muscles. The hammock of muscles and other tissues supports the bladder and the bowel and plays an important role in bladder and bowel control.
Why the Pelvic Floor Muscles get Weak?
The pelvic floor muscles can be weakened by:
Operations on the prostate gland where the nerves to muscles of the pelvis may be injured or damaged.
a chronic cough, such as smoker’s cough or chronic bronchitis or asthma being overweight
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises?
You can improve control of your bladder and bowel by doing exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These exercises may also be useful in conjunction with a bladder retraining program aimed at improving bladder control in people who experience the urgent need to pass urine frequently and may not always “make it in time”.
How to Identify your Pelvic Floor Muscles?
The first thing to do is to identify correctly the muscles that need to be exercised.
1. Sit or lie comfortably with muscles of your thighs, buttocks and abdomen relaxed.
2. Tighten the ring of muscle around the back passage as if you are trying to control diarrhea or wind. Relax it. Practice this movement several times until you are sure you are exercising the correct muscle. Do not hold your breath: keep breathing normally. You need to concentrate on using the correct muscles.
Do not tighten your buttocks or thighs. Some people find they pull in the lower stomach muscles as well and this is OK because the muscles are helping one another .
3. In order to contract your pelvic floor muscles it may help to imagine you are passing urine and trying to stop the flow mid-stream, then restarting it. If your technique is correct, each time that you tighten your pelvic floor muscles you may feel the base of your penis move up slightly towards your abdomen.
4. If you are unable to feel a definite squeeze and lift action of your pelvic floor muscles, you should seek professional help to get your pelvic floor muscles working correctly. Even men with very weak pelvic floor muscles can be taught these exercises by a physiotherapist or continence advisor with expertise in this area. See “Seeking Help” below.
Doing Your Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Now that you can feel the muscles working, you can start to exercise them:
1. Tighten and draw in strongly the muscles around the anus and the urethra all at once. Lift them up inside. Try and hold this contraction strongly as you count to five, then release slowly and relax for a few seconds. You should have a definite feeling of “letting go”.
2. Repeat (“squeeze and lift”) and relax. It is important to rest in between each contraction. If you find it easy to hold the contraction for a count of five, try to hold for longer – up to ten seconds.
3. Repeat this as many times as you are able up to a maximum of 8-10 squeezes. Make each tightening a strong, slow and controlled contraction.
4. Now do five to ten short, fast, but strong contractions, pulling up and immediately letting go.
5. Do this exercise routine at least 3-4 times every day. You can do it in a variety of positions – lying, sitting, standing, walking.
6. While doing the exercises:
DO NOT hold your breath.
DO NOT push down instead of squeezing and lifting up.
Do your exercises carefully. The quality is important. Fewer good exercises will be more beneficial than many half-hearted ones.
Make the Exercises a Daily Routine
Once you have learned how to do these exercises, they should be done regularly, giving each set your full attention. It might be helpful to have regular times during the day for doing the exercises – for example, after going to the toilet, when having a drink, when lying in bed. You will wish to tighten your pelvic floor muscles also while you are getting up from a chair, coughing or lifting. Some men find that by tightening before they undertake such activities they assist themselves in regaining control.
Bottom Line: Good results take time. In order to build up your pelvic floor muscles to their maximum strength you will need to work hard at these exercises. You will probably not notice an improvement for several weeks or even a few months. But remember no Olympic champion developed a physique like a Greek god overnight!