“Kegel exercises” and pelvic floor exercises are often associated with “women’s affairs” — think pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. But men also have a pelvic floor.
Just like women, men can benefit from training their pelvic floor to address a variety of health problems at different times in their lives. About 30 percent of men who visit a doctor have incontinence or a leaky bladder, but most don’t bring it up. About 15% of men also experience fecal incontinence or leaky gut and take longer to seek help than women.
The pelvic floor muscles are also involved in sexual function. Erectile dysfunction affects about 10 percent of healthy men and nearly 40 percent of men with chronic health problems, and can be associated with pelvic floor problems.
People sometimes think that these problems are just a normal part of aging. But universal does not mean inevitable. A few simple strategies often lead to great improvements – including pelvic floor rehabilitation.
Male pelvic floor dysfunction is really common
While pelvic floor problems are more common in women, one in eight men have problems with the pelvic floor, bladder or bowel.
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles at the bottom of the pelvis. For men, this supports the bladder, prostate and bowel. It is essential for maintaining core stability, bladder and bowel control, as well as erectile function and sexual satisfaction.
Most men have little reason to think about their pelvic floor for most of their lives until something medically goes wrong (women tend to be younger compared to women and usually don’t start pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy and childbirth) ).
Read more: Playing games with your pelvic floor may be a useful exercise for incontinence
why it happens
Risk factors for incontinence and pelvic floor problems in men include aging, prostate problems, pelvic surgery, bowel problems such as constipation, chronic cough, frequent weight lifting, and being overweight.
Prostate cancer affects up to 15% of men and is the second most common cancer in men (and the fourth most common cancer overall).
The largest source of referrals for pelvic floor physiotherapy in men tends to be prostate surgery. This is because surgery on the prostate (very close to the bottom of the bladder) can cause trauma to nearby structures and nerves that maintain bladder control and erectile function.
However, we know that training the pelvic floor early (beginning before surgery) means that postoperative side effects (such as incontinence) will go away sooner.
Read more: Prostate cancer linked to bacteria raises hopes for new tests and treatments
How do men exercise their pelvic floor?
To touch the pelvic floor, it should feel like a squeeze, lift, and relaxation of the muscles between the pubic bone, coccyx, and ischium. Some popular tips include visualization:
- Stops midstream urine (but doesn’t actually do it)
- standing against the wind
- retract penis/testicles
- Pull the vulva (the skin between the genitals and the back passage) away from the underwear.
It’s important to make sure your abs, glutes (buttocks), and thigh muscles stay relaxed and breathe throughout the process.
Exercises can be performed in any position, and if done well, should be able to be performed inconspicuously (even with other people around!). However, it is not uncommon for these exercises to be difficult to do without some guidance.
It may be beneficial to work with a health professional such as a pelvic floor physical therapist. Physical therapists trained in men’s health and pelvic floor conditions will teach clients how to perform the exercises properly. They often do this using biofeedback devices, such as real-time ultrasound imaging, that can help identify the right muscles to use and improve the technique.
Not all pelvic floor problems require strengthening. Optimal muscle function requires good strength, but also the right timing, coordination, and relaxation.
A pelvic floor that is too tight can be a problem for both men and women and can lead to symptoms of pelvic or genital pain, sexual dysfunction, urinary problems including overactive bladder, and bowel problems.
Your specific questions will inform how your physical therapist may prescribe the exercise, but the goal is to be able to:
- Open and close the pelvic floor 10 times in 10 seconds
- Strong hold for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times
- Keep it easy for 1 minute.
Read more: Incontinence technology hasn’t evolved much since ancient Egyptian times
Do I need to exercise if I don’t have pelvic floor problems?
Just as a good fitness program can keep you in peak physical health and help avoid injury, a regular pelvic floor training routine may help combat the possibility of bladder, bowel, and erectile dysfunction. However, there is little literature on prophylactic use in asymptomatic men.
Knowing where your pelvic floor is and how to properly exercise it is never a bad thing – training can even have some pleasant side effects like less wakefulness at night needing to urinate, less dribbling after urination, better bowels Empty the channel and increase sexual satisfaction.
If you’re not sure if a pelvic floor exercise is right for you, or if you’re doing it correctly, talk to a trusted health professional.