The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for urinary, vaginal and bowel control. Pregnancy, vigorous activity and age can cause the muscles to weaken. This can lead to urinary incontinence, poor sexual functioning, prolapsed bladder and even fecal incontinence. Kegel exercises improve the tone of pelvic floor muscles and can prevent these complications. Tools for Kegel exercises help to isolate the pelvic floor muscles and encourage correct Kegel performance.
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Benwa balls are small, metal weighted balls that are placed in the vagina and held there. Originally, benwa balls were used for sexual stimulation, but the act of retaining the benwa balls in the vagina requires Kegel muscle contractions, strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
Kegel cones work in a similar manner to benwa balls but sit lower in the vagina and are weighted specifically for Kegel exercises. Most cone kits come with a variety of weights so that as the muscles become stronger, heavier cones are used, providing a progressive form of exercise. Some Kegel "cones" are actually shaped more like tampons.
Several products work by providing a resistance, typically with a spring inside some sort of plastic or metal vaginal insert. These products give more resistance, making the exercises more effective but give no real feedback about whether the exercises are being done correctly.
Biofeedback devices are now available for in home use as well as for use at the gynecologist. They work by having a vaginal probe attached to a computer that gauges the strength and duration of the muscle contractions. These devices give feedback as to whether the muscles are being properly isolated and record improvements in muscle strength.
In some cases, women are still unable to isolate the pelvic floor muscles or the muscles are so weak that the muscle contractions are not noticeable. In these cases, a Kegel exercise tool that applies mild electrical stimulation to these muscles can exercise these muscles, gradually strengthening them.
There are a variety of tools for Kegel exercises that can help prevent urinary incontinence and other complications of weak pelvic floor muscles. Some devices require proper fitting and physician prescription, others are available over-the-counter. Women who are experiencing incontinence should see their physician to rule out other causes.