I know it’s an unpopular opinion, I must share it though; Kegels are like The Kardashians. I don’t understand why they are popular, yet people continue to want to keep up with them.
Let me explain where I am coming from, Kegels are an exercise that involves contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is a muscular bowl in the pelvis that supports the pelvic organs (bladder, colon, uterus, or prostate).
In the media, I see articles often spouting the importance of Kegels, and stating this exercise will provide a lot of benefits, including better and more intense orgasms.
Research mixed on Kegels
The research, however, is mixed. Some studies say yes, others say not really.
It is safe to say that good awareness and coordination of the pelvic floor muscles are important for sexual function and orgasm. During orgasms, these muscles repeatedly contract and relax, so if the pelvic floor has good coordination and increased range of motion it could contribute to a better orgasm.
But an orgasm requires so much more than just a muscle contraction. A person needs good blood flow to the genitals. The nerves that supply the area need to be functioning well. A person needs to be in the right headspace.
Kegels appropriate exercise?
As a result of all the pro-Kegel hype, they are often over-prescribed. Actually, studies show that most people aren’t able to do Kegels correctly with verbal instruction alone. Often, Kegels may not be the appropriate exercise. Many people, including those with incontinence, actually present with overactive pelvic floor muscles and need to work on relaxing the muscles vs strengthening them.
If the muscles are in a guarded or hypertonic state then they are already at their end range of motion and won’t be able to contract further when they need to; such as when a person needs to stop urine from coming out. As a result, doing Kegels can make symptoms worse because you are strengthening an already shortened muscle. In some cases, if a person does Kegels too much or incorrectly they may develop new symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction such as pelvic pain.
Most patients with pelvic floor dysfunction typically need skilled manual therapy to help address any myofascial restrictions and neuromuscular re-education to help the patient learn to relax the muscles and be able to know how to contract them appropriately.
Furthermore, Kegels are not one size fits all. Some people may need to work on strength while others may need to work on endurance and others may need to work on coordination of the muscles, which would require different types of Kegels. So bottom-line, see a specialist to determine if Kegels are appropriate and to see what types one should be doing.
In reality, my “unpopular opinion” isn’t so much with Kegel exercises as it is with the typical messaging around them. They are often presented like a magic pill that will cure all vaginal ailments. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a one-time fix that will perform at the speed of Amazon Prime. The body takes time; especially when it comes to sexual health.
Mixed messages with Kegels
One of the issues of saying Kegels will improve sex is that it makes people believe that this one thing will make sex better. But sex and pleasure don’t work that way. As mentioned, multiple things play a role in sexual health. If a person has poor circulation or a cardiovascular condition or has a hormonal imbalance or they are under a large amount of stress it can have a negative impact on their sexual function.
If a person reads that doing Kegels will help improve their orgasm or sex life and that exercise doesn’t fix the issue it could understandably lead to a sense of hopelessness and feeling that they are broken.
Instead of providing “quick” or “easy” things to make sex better, we should be talking about how multiple things may need to change or be practiced to improve sexual health. This article provides some ideas for where to start that have nothing to do with the pelvic floor.
As mentioned earlier, Kegel exercises often come with the message that a vagina needs to be tighter and that this level of tightness directly impacts how pleasurable sex will be. This is problematic on many levels.
First, it assumes that all sex is penetrative and partnered. When a lot of good sex involves no penetration and in many cases no partner. Also, the research shows that a small percentage of people with a vulva are able to orgasm with penetration alone and that the majority of those people require clitoral stimulation in place of or in combination with penetration.
It is also important to note that a Kegel does not do anything to the state of the vagina. A Kegel involves the muscles that the vagina travels through. Therefore, Kegels may strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which will impact the vaginal canal, but a Kegel doesn’t directly change the vagina itself. Furthermore, the vagina is elastic. It is designed to stretch. During arousal the vaginal canal elongates. Think of the vagina as an anatomical accordion. A sexy, awesome accordion.
In my opinion, there is way too much focus on the vagina when it comes to sexual health. This kind of tunnel vision is a problem. There are many parts within the female body that channel pleasure beyond the vagina!
Instead of Kegels how about lubrication
However, if people really want to focus on the vagina, I wouldn’t think about Kegels as the starting point. Instead, I would really think about lubrication and incorporating a good quality lubricant into sex.
Honestly, I wish lube got the kind of PR and marketing as Kegels. Many people have a negative association with lube, but lube is great and it is important. The body produces lubrication naturally when aroused, but many things can impact this physiological process.
For people experiencing pain with sex or vaginal dryness, lube is a must, but it can be great to incorporate to simply spice things up. In general, lube helps create a more pleasurable experience.
However, adding lube isn’t going to instantly make sex better; just like doing Kegels isn’t going to be a sexual game-changer. There are many things that can create good sex and I encourage everyone to explore all the possibilities.