Ask the Doctors: Kegels and Urinary Incontinence

I am disabled, in a wheelchair, from sequelae of polio. I think my pelvic floor is not affected but I am 68 years old and I think things are just floppy down there, as are other parts. I pee a little when laughing, sneezing, transferring from chair to bed/toilet/etc.

Years ago, there was a kind of fad among my friends to just try to start/stop urinary flow for pelvic floor strengthening. (‘Ah can pick up a piece ‘a spaghetti with that thang now.’ This was the goal.)

Is this still valid or should I get one of those scary looking ‘devices’ which look like the octopus in an anime or something? I don’t have much money now that I’m not working. Can you recommend an anti-pee regimen?

Whether or not your pelvic floor is affected by the polio, it is very likely to be affected by the fact that you are in a chair and more sedentary than average. So yes, I think the Kegel exercise “fad” is one that you’d do well to revive. You’ve got it right as far as the stopping and starting of urine is concerned — that is indeed a good way to find the muscles in question, also called the pubococcygeal muscles. But don’t do the exercises themselves while peeing–that’s not recommended. Instead, just figure out which muscles they are, and then do repetitive squeezing and releasing of these.

Some docs still think it’s a grand idea to do surgery to cure what they call “urinary stress incontinence” — your pee experiences would, I think, count as this. But I have a sexologist’s bias for Kegels and against surgery, at least until you’ve given the exercises a darn good shot. Multiple reps, multiple times a day are what many women try to work up to. One hundred, even 200 squeezes would not be considered too many to help with urinary stress incontinence.

Some PC muscle exercisers may make those on a fixed income worry that exercises are out of their price range. You don’t need to get one, or if you do, it doesn’t have to be quite pricey. I like the balls on a string style which can be pulled on, and if you do have the money, Betty’s Barbell Kegel Dildo is fantastic and designed specifically for this purpose.

 

Here are all of our Kegel exercising products and an article all about the PC muscle and Kegel exercises

But the bottom line is that if you can squeeze those muscles, you don’t absolutely need a resistive device to help you to it. Happy workout!

 


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Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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