Kegel exercises and incontinence
If you’ve ever suffered from incontinence of any kind, then you know how uncomfortable and annoying it can be. Luckily, you don’t have to just grin and bear it. An effective Kegel routine can help you deal with all types of incontinence, and while it might not completely solve the problems, it can make you a lot more comfortable.
Types of incontinence
Before we discuss the possible benefits of Kegel exercises for someone with incontinence, I feel it’s important to spend a little time discussing the topic as a whole. As it is a personal matter and a delicate area, you can see why a lot of people would feel embarrassed or have difficulty talking to a doctor about it. I’d always encourage you to seek medical advice, as these are professionals who deal with this kind of stuff all the time, but if you’re still feeling a little embarrassed hopefully we can shed some light on some of your problems, and help you deal with it at least a little.
While there is a large amount of different causes of incontinence, they can all be divided into two main categories. Urinary incontinence, and faecal incontinence. As you might guess, urinary incontinence is related to your bladder and urine control. Faecal incontinence is related to your rectum and control of your faecal matter.
This is possibly the more common of the two. You don’t need to be completely emptying your bladder into your pants to qualify for urinary incontinence either. Even just a few drops dribbling out here or there is enough to be recognised as a problem. There are many types of urinary incontinence, but there are two in particular I want to focus on: Stress incontinence, and Urge incontinence.
Stress incontinence is specifically caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles form a kind of figure 8 pattern around your urethra and vagina, and your anus. When they are strong they are able to open and close properly, allowing urine to pass at the appropriate times. Conversely, when they are weakened, they do not possess the necessary strength to stay closed when you aren’t using the toilet, so small or large amounts of urine may be allowed to leak out. Particular hazards when you suffer from stress incontinence are things which increase the pressure on your bladder, such as sneezing, coughing, or pushing down like you would if you were having a difficult stool.
Urge incontinence is a little different, and is characterised by a sudden feeling that you need to go to the toilet (an urge), and being unable to stop yourself. This one is a little harder to explain as nobody has ever been able to figure out the exact cause. Sometimes it is referred to as Overactive Bladder Disorder or OAB. Usually it is just put down to the aging process as more people tend to get it as they get older. Essentially if you’ve ever had the sudden feeling that you quickly need to get to the toilet, and if you couldn’t make it had some urinary leakage, you probably suffer from some level of urge incontinence.
Faecal incontinence similarly has two distinct types to discuss. Again, there is urge incontinence, but unlike urinary incontinence the second type of faecal incontinence is passive incontinence.
Urge incontinence is almost identical in faecal incontinence as it is in urinary incontinence. Sufferers will suddenly feel a desperate need to reach the toilet, and if there isn’t one nearby will usually leak some faecal matter.
Passive incontinence is very different from what we’ve discussed so far. People who suffer from passive incontinence will feel basically nothing before they leak faecal matter. This can make it very difficult to know when it’s going to happen as there is no feeling of “needing to go”, just a horrible surprise arriving without your knowledge. In some cases this can be caused by a very weak pelvic floor as the loss of support and firmness can cause your muscles to loose feeling, allowing the stool to pass through the area without your knowledge.
I am not a doctor!
As I mentioned earlier, we all know it’s embarrassing to talk to a doctor about butt stuff, wee, or anything in that general area. While I have done my utmost to research this topic and give you good information it is worth pointing out that I am not a medical professional. This is all based off my own research into the topic and it is possible that doctors will have more up to date information on everything. If you suspect you might be suffering from any kind of incontinence it is in your best interest to be seen and diagnosed as soon as possible!
How could Kegels help my incontinence?
Hopefully after reading that short overview of the different kinds of incontinence, you might be beginning to understand just how important the role of your pelvic floor is in the proper function of the entire area. Think of it like a small plastic bag. If you fill the bad with water and tie it shut, then you should be able to turn the bag upside down without any leakage. The knot represents a healthy pelvic floor. If rather than tying the bag tightly shut, you used a large, stretched out elastic band, then when you turned the bag upside down some of the water would almost certainly leak out. The weak elastic band represents a weak and unhealthy pelvic floor.
As Kegel exercises focus on building the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, these are often one of the first things a doctor recommends to patients suffering from most kinds of incontinence. While the results are never usually felt quickly, over a course of a few months, most people will experience at least some level of benefits from a Kegel exercise regime. These benefits are often improved by using Kegel balls as a part of your routine. With a stronger pelvic floor, you should be able to better control all types of incontinence, which will hopefully leave you feeling safe and dry.
A lot of people struggle with correctly using the right muscles when performing Kegels, rendering the exercises much less effective. Again, I’d recommend talking to your doctor. They should be all too happy to help you not only identify which muscles you’re meant to be using, but also help you tailor a program to suit your needs. While a large percentage of sufferers will experience some good benefits from Kegels, it won’t work for everyone. If you’ve started doing them to help with your incontinence, and after a few months haven’t really seen much benefit from them, then your doctor will be able to either ensure you are performing them correctly, or recommend a different course of treatment.