Kegel exercises refer to the voluntary squeezing of the muscles of the pelvic floor as non-surgical treatment for perineal muscle weakness and/or laxity.
Kegel exercises were invented by Dr. Arnold Henry Kegel (February 21, 1894 – March 1, 1972), an American gynecologist who noted that women’s pelvic floor muscles were weakened by childbirth. When these muscles are weakened, women may experience urinary incontinence (urine leaks), loss of sensation in the vagina, and even vaginal prolapse, when the pelvic organs can bulge into the vaginal canal.
Dr. Kegel also invented the Kegel perineometer – an instrument for measuring the strength of voluntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. The world's first biofeedback instrument!
Dr. Kegel observed the effects of pelvic floor exercises on thousands of women to demonstrate that the pelvic floor muscles could be exercised like any other muscle in the body. In his research papers, he called the pelvic floor muscles the most versatile in the human body, and discovered that they could recover their strength even after years of disuse.
After 18 years of research, he published ‘A Nonsurgical Method of Increasing the Tone of Sphincters and their Supporting Structures’ in 1942. The paper noted that diligent patients usually begin to notice symptomatic relief from urinary incontinence after 2 to 4 weeks of resistive exercises.
In follow-up examinations with patients who followed his routines, Dr. Kegel even discovered that patients doing Kegel exercises regularly were achieving orgasm more easily, more frequently, and more intensely.
Today pelvic floor exercises are widely held as first-line treatment for any type of female incontinence and genital prolapse.
Kegel weights (weights that a woman will insert in her vagina to make the contractions more powerful) are widely available and marketed. However, there is no evidence that doing kegels with weights works better than doing them without weights. In fact, there is greater risk with weights, because a foreign object is introduced into the vagina, which can increase the risk of infection and can lead to vaginosis or toxic shock syndrome.