Pelvic floor muscle exercises help prevent, improve SUI, POP

A recent study by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences showed that pelvic floor muscle exercises were an effective treatment for stress urinary incontinence, or SUI, with short-term cure rates varying between 35 and 80 percent. The exercises also proved beneficial in patients who suffered from pelvic organ prolapse, or POP. SUI and POP are often treated with surgery in which surgical mesh is implanted transvaginally to hold up the dropping organs. However, the transvaginal mesh used in these types of surgery is currently under a review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for possibly causing serious injuries. In comparison, pelvic floor muscle exercises were found to have no adverse effects.

The muscles of the pelvic floor can weaken from many causes. Most often pregnancy and childbirth are the culprit. Aging and obesity have also been found to cause problems. The effects of POP include uncomfortable pelvic pressure to leakage of urine. Pelvic floor muscle exercises have been shown in some cases to help delay or even prevent POP and the related symptoms. In order for pelvic floor muscle exercises to work effectively, however, training and proper instruction and close follow-up is key, the researchers said.

Pelvic floor muscle exercises are best known as Kegel exercises. Before beginning the exercises the right muscles must be identified. This can be done by inserting your finger into your vagina and trying to squeeze the surrounding muscles. If you feel your vagina tighten and the pelvic floor move upward, you have identified the right muscles.

Once you have identified your pelvic floor muscles, sit on the floor and contract the muscles. Hold the contraction for five seconds and then relax it for five seconds. Try this process four or five times in a row, working up to holding the contraction for 10 seconds at a time with 10 second breaks in between. You also can work these muscles by stopping the flow of urine when you urinate.

For best results, be sure to only contract your pelvic floor muscles and not those in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. And practice the techniques 3-4 times a week.

Mayo Clinic