Can Pelvic Floor Exercises Help You Take Back Control?
November 28, 2023
Experiencing incontinence for the first time can feel overwhelming. Of the many questions and concerns running through your mind, the most important is likely, “What can I do to protect myself and make sure nobody knows when I’ve had an accident?”
Disposable absorbent products like those offered by Tranquility® are one of the best methods of protection when it comes to urinary or fecal incontinence, for several reasons:
- They are available in many styles (tape-tab briefs, pull-on underwear, pads and more), absorbency levels and sizes to fit your needs
- They are relatively easy to get, for your convenience (start by discreetly requesting free samples online)
- There is a very low risk for side effects, to keep you safe
- They may be covered at little or no cost to you, depending on your diagnosis (learn more about product coverage options)
However, once you have secured the protection you need, you may want to begin looking into treatment options that go beyond managing incontinence, with ways to take greater control and even potentially stop leakage and accidents from happening. Depending on the frequency and severity of your incontinence, the most common treatment options include:
- Exercises (pelvic floor muscle training, also known as Kegel exercises)
- Surgery (colostomy, rectal prolapse surgery)
- Therapies (nerve stimulation, radiofrequency therapy)
- Medications (laxatives, anti-diarrheal drugs)
In this article we will focus on how to do pelvic floor muscle exercises that may help you take better control of incontinence.
What are pelvic floor muscle exercises?
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are quick, repetitive and highly focused squeeze-and-release movements with specific muscles in your abdomen.
These exercises can be performed by both men and women, and can be done in a very discreet way, so you can practice them almost anywhere without anyone knowing that you are doing them. They can also be completed in just a few minutes, so you can get in a quick session while you do everyday activities like brushing your teeth, walking the dog or waiting for the TV commercials to end.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are particularly helpful for people experiencing lighter forms of urinary incontinence, such as:
- Stress incontinence, or leaking urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, lift something heavy, etc.
- Urge incontinence, or having the sudden need to go and you can’t reach the bathroom in time (also called overactive bladder or OAB)
- Having a small dribble when you think you’ve finished urinating
These exercises also provide benefits if you experience fecal incontinence with uncontrolled loss of stool.
How do I perform Pelvic floor muscle exercises?
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are performed by squeezing in just the right area of your abdomen. This can be difficult to do correctly, at first. The Mayo Clinic recommends you practice in the privacy of your bathroom, when you feel the need to urinate, and follow these instructions to help you target the right muscles:
- Begin to urinate, then try to pause midstream. The muscles that you activated are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Practice your technique by imagining you are sitting on a marble, then tightening your pelvic muscles as if you’re lifting the marble. Hold it for three seconds, then relax for three seconds.
- Begin to urinate, then stop in midstream (try tightening the muscles that keep you from passing gas). These are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Practice your technique by holding these muscles for three seconds, then relaxing for three seconds. Try it a few times in a row.
For best results, try not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath and breathe normally. Once you have identified the correct muscles, you can do pelvic floor muscle exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.
As you feel more comfortable, increase the amount of “hold time” to five seconds, then to 10 seconds. Increase repetitions until you are doing at least three sets of 10 per day.
For a full step-by-step guide from the Mayo Clinic, see this guide for women and this guide for men. If you are having a hard time mastering the technique, talk with your physician or a physical therapist. They may use a device that will show you if you are doing these exercises properly.
How do Pelvic floor muscle exercises help control incontinence?
Pelvic floor muscle exercises strengthen and tighten the muscles that support the bladder, small intestine, rectum – and for women – the uterus. This gives you greater control over these systems and makes it easier for you to stop urine and feces from leaking out unexpectedly.
But why do your muscles in this area of your body become weak in the first place?
As we age, we naturally begin to lose some of our muscle mass and strength, which includes the weakening of the bladder or pelvic floor muscles. This can be intensified by a lack of physical activity.
However, weakening of pelvic floor muscles is not strictly a matter of aging. This can also happen to younger or middle-aged people as a result of surgery (especially involving the prostate), chronic coughing, excessive straining from constipation, pregnancy/childbirth, having diabetes or being overweight.
Depending on their type and severity of incontinence, those who perform pelvic floor muscle exercises on a regular basis can expect to have less frequent urine or bowel leakage in a few weeks to a few months. Make Kegel exercises a normal part of your daily routine to keep your pelvic muscles in good shape, to help maintain greater control over incontinence.
“While there are several treatment options for incontinence, performing pelvic floor muscle exercises is a great non-invasive exercise that can have tremendous impact on improving incontinence,” said Kolo Wilkinson, Tranquility Clinical Lead. “For instance, according to research, pelvic floor muscle exercises performed regularly can have a 30% to 90% success rate in women with stress incontinence.”
What other exercises can help manage incontinence?
Interested in more exercises to ease incontinence symptoms? Try doing movements that are focused on the muscles in the abdomen and bladder area, like these:
- Think of a “bridge” exercise in which you lie flat on your back, arms spread out, and you raise your waist straight up to the ceiling and lower it back down, in a slow and controlled manner.
- Or try this to help you focus on the pelvic floor muscles. Lying flat on your back, legs bent, begin doing a sit-up to feel the proper muscle tightening, then lie back down as you hold to finish each rep.
Other versions include core stretching or strengthening exercises that you might see in a fitness class, yoga session or tai chi lesson. These movements can help strengthen your core, which your pelvic floor depends upon.
These types of exercises can all provide benefits in addition to a pelvic floor muscle exercise routine.
How Tranquility can help
Dealing with incontinence for the first time? Here’s an example of how Tranquility superabsorbent products recently helped one customer:
“I’m new to incontinence. One night, just out of the blue, I woke up wet and was not sure where to turn. It is very frustrating to all-of-a-sudden begin wetting the bed. … I began using Tranquility Premium OverNight™ Underwear and I absolutely love them. They are very comfortable and I was amazed at how much liquid these can hold. I also have fecal incidents with no problem, no leaks! These are my go to pull-on – I highly recommend!”
If you need help selecting the right products to help manage incontinence, please call a friendly Tranquility Care Center representative at 1-866-865-6101, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. EST or email CustomerService@pbenet.com.
This article was verified by Kolo Wilkinson, RN, MSN, RN-BC, CCFP
Robert is a Senior Manager of Content Marketing for Principle Business Enterprises, parent company of Tranquility Brand Continence Care Products. He has 15 years of experience creating online educational content in the healthcare industry, specializing in medical supplies.
For more information or questions about this article, please call 1-419-352-1551 or email CustomerService@pbenet.com.
More Tranquility Blogs
- The Best Diaper Creams for Adults with Sensitive Skin
- 7 Best Super Absorbent Diapers for Adults
- How Much Do Adult Diapers Cost On Average: Budgeting Tips
- Introducing One of the Most Absorbent 3XL Adult Diapers
- How to Choose the Best Incontinence Underwear for Heavy Leakage
- Ohio-Made Tranquility Incontinence Products Tops Forbes ‘Best Adult Diapers’ with 3 Selections
- 'Person-Centered' Wellness: Helping Activity & Incontinence Coexist
- Does FSA Cover Adult Diapers & Incontinence Products?
- Can Pelvic Floor Exercises Help You Take Back Control?
- Caretakers Look to Cut ‘Excessive’ Workload with Better Products