Pelvic Health Tools

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Tools To Help Maintain Pelvic Floor Health

It takes work to ensure that your pelvic floor continues to function as it should. And while there are many things you can do on your own to see improvement or manage your condition, there are also tools that can help. Whether you’re looking for something to help you perform a kegel correctly, prevent leaks while you’re working out, or even make sex a bit more comfortable, there are a number of products you can choose from. Keep reading for more information about some of these, and ask your doctor or physical therapist for more information if they sound like something you’d like to try.

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Kegel Exercise Devices

What are kegel exercise devices?

Kegel exercise devices are tools that help you contract your pelvic floor muscles. While a kegel contraction is technically just the tightening and releasing of the pelvic floor muscles, they can be difficult to do if you’ve never done them before. Many women find it hard to locate these muscles and are often surprised to learn that they’ve been contracting the wrong ones once they are finally able to meet with a pelvic floor specialist.

Kegel exercise devices take some of the guesswork out of this process by stimulating the pelvic floor muscle and causing an automatic contraction. This not only makes it easier to do a kegel when you’re first starting out, but it’s also extremely helpful in teaching women exactly which muscles they should be focusing on.

Click The Image Above TO Download Your Own Pelvic Floor Exercise Tracker

Click The Image Above TO Download Your Own Pelvic Floor Exercise Tracker

What types of kegel exercise devices are available and how do they work?

Kegel Weights Kegel weights are exactly what they sound like – they are weights that you hold in your vagina which helps you to build muscle control and manage bladder leaks. Kegel weights come in various sizes and shapes (usually balls or cones) and have a string attached to them. You insert the weights as you would a tampon, and simply by holding them in place and not letting them fall out, you’ll be working to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Women typically are advised to start with low weights and progressively work their way up to larger weights as they become stronger. Biofeedback Biofeedback is a tool that allows women to actually see how they are contracting their pelvic muscles and how strong (or weak) their contractions are. It’s a process that is often done in a PT exam and uses sensors and a monitor to help show patients their muscle activity. Patients are able to see on-screen when they are contracting and relaxing the correct muscles, and they are able to measure how strong those contractions are. If done regularly over time, biofeedback helps build up muscle control and strengthen the pelvic floor. Electrical Stimulation – Internal Electrical stimulation devices deliver a small amount of electrical current to the pelvic floor muscles, causing them to contract automatically. This is a painless sensation and helps women recognize what a kegel contraction feels like. Internal devices that use electrical stimulation involve placing a probe inside the vagina. Women can do this in a PT’s office or in the comfort of their own homes. Done regularly, electrical stimulation can help “wake up” the pelvic floor muscles and can be very beneficial to women who have trouble identifying where these muscles are or who are unable to contact them or hold the contraction for very long. Electrical Stimulation – External Like internal stimulators, external electrical stimulators also deliver small amounts of an electrical current to the pelvic floor muscles, but do so through the skin, making them less invasive and more comfortable. These come in different forms – some are placed inside your underwear, similar to how you would wear an absorbent pad. Some are in the form of biking-style shorts. A great benefit of using an external stimulator is that they are wearable and do not take up your time, as you can do other things during your sessions. Some can be discreetly worn under clothing and allow you to move around your house.

Who Can Benefit From Using A Kegel Exercise Device?

Anyone who would benefit from doing Kegels could benefit from using one of these devices for a period of time. As you become more comfortable with where the pelvic floor muscles are and are more familiar with how to do a kegel contraction, you can slowly start doing them on your own without the aid of a device.

Who Should Not Use A Kegel Exercise Device?

In some cases of pelvic floor dysfunction, the pelvic floor is actually not too loose, but too tense. In women who have an overactive pelvic floor, doing additional Kegels (with, or without an exercise device) will only add to the problem.

Think about it this way – imagine you’re lifting weights and you develop a cramp in one of your muscles. Continuing to lift weights without loosening that cramp will only make the cramp worse.

So, how do you know which camp you fall into – too tense or too loose? It’s surprisingly easy to mistake the two, which is why we strongly recommend a visit to a physical therapist before starting a kegel exercise plan. A PT will give you a thorough exam, diagnose you with either a tight or a weak pelvic floor, and then show you the exercises to address your issues specifically, including how to relax your pelvic floor as well as tighten it.

It’s also important to remember that the pelvic floor does not work in isolation – incorporating your breathing and other connected muscles into your workout routine is important in developing a strong pelvic floor. A physical therapist can show you how to do this and help guide you through the workouts to ensure you’re addressing your whole body.

Vaginal Dilators

What Are Vaginal Dilators?

Vaginal dilators are tube-shaped devices that are used to help relax the muscles and expand the tissues around the opening of the vagina, helping to make a woman more comfortable with penetration.

How Do They Work?

If women are completely unable to accept penetration, it’s recommended that they start by learning to control their pelvic floor muscles. By practicing at their own pace and with what they are comfortable with, they can learn to accept the insertion of something small, such as a finger, while they learn to control their pelvic floor.

Vaginal dilators come in different sizes, and it’s recommended that women start with a dilator that is comfortable for them, then gradually work their way up to larger ones until they are able to feel comfortable with the pressure.

Who Can Benefit From A Vaginal Dilator?

Some women experience a condition called vaginismus, which is when the muscles around the opening of the vagina squeeze or tighten, making any type of penetration (such as with tampons or sexual intercourse) painful, or even impossible. Doctors aren’t sure why this happens, but it can cause anxiety in those it affects, create pain during intercourse or make it impossible for intercourse to happen at all.

Vaginal atrophy is another common condition that can occur during menopause and is often associated with other medical issues. It can cause dryness in the vagina, making penetration painful and difficult.

Women who experience vaginismus or vaginal atrophy can benefit from vaginal dilators by using them regularly to expand the tissues and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor, making sex more enjoyable and comfortable.

Vaginal Lubrication

What Is A Vaginal Lubricant?

Vaginal lubricants are artificial lubricants that help reduce vaginal dryness. They come in various textures and materials and are used to help reduce the friction of sexual intercourse, making it more comfortable and enjoyable.

How Do Lubricants Work?

Vaginal lubricants work by providing artificial lubrication to the vagina, making penetration more comfortable.

Who Can Benefit From Using A Lubricant?

Vaginal lubrication is naturally produced by the body during arousal and aids in providing comfort during sex. However, due to hormonal changes (as in menopause), or other medical conditions, the body does not always produce enough lubrication. As we age, our vaginal tissues also become thinner which can make sex more uncomfortable. In these instances, a vaginal lubricant can provide additional, artificial lubrication that can decrease the friction of sex and make it more enjoyable.

Vaginal lubricants may also assist people who are using other treatment devices, like dilators, by making them more comfortable to insert.

Pessaries

What Is A Pessary?

A pessary is a device that is often used to provide pelvic floor support. Pessaries are commonly used as a treatment for mild symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, such as a cystocele (dropped bladder) or a rectocele (dropped bowel). They are also often used for cases of stress urinary incontinence.

How Does A Pessary Work?

There are different types of pessaries that are used for different conditions. Some look like small discs, while others may appear cube or donut-shaped.

For prolapse patients, the pessary works by inserting it into your vagina, providing support to your pelvic organs. For patients with urinary incontinence, the same type of pessary may be used, or a pessary that provides increase support to the neck of the bladder may be used to prevent leaks.

Pessaries are not one-size-fits-all.  If your doctor thinks a pessary may be a good option for you, you will be fitted for it in the office. It may take several tries to get the right fit, but it’s an important step to make sure the pessary works correctly.

Once fitted, you may need regular follow-ups with your doctor to ensure that the pessary isn’t causing you any discomfort or irritation. It’s also important to keep the pessary sanitary, so regular cleaning is a must.

Who Can Benefit From Using A Pessary?

Pessaries are good options for women with pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence – especially when they want to avoid other options that may include surgery.  They’re also a great option for women who experience bladder leaks only during strenuous activity, such as working out, since they can be inserted and removed whenever you want.

NOTE: The information shared within NAFC’s Pelvic Floor Health Center is meant to be used as a guide but should not be considered a replacement for medical advice. Not all pelvic floor exercises are for everyone, and we strongly urge you to talk to your doctor before beginning any new workout routine, and, if possible, see a physical therapist trained in pelvic floor health to receive a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.


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