The pelvic floor muscles act as a sling or hammock to support the uterus, bladder and bowels. Medline Plus notes that strong pelvic floor muscles help ensure bladder and bowel continence. Results of weak pelvic muscles can include urinary and bowel incontinence, fallen uterus and reduced sexual pleasure. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor by contracting specific muscles and muscle groups. Exercise equipment can help ensure you are targeting the right muscles and add challenge to the exercises.
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Kegel, or ben wa, balls are small, weighted pairs of balls usually made of metal or glass. When you insert one or both balls into your vagina and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles to keep the balls in place, you are strengthening the muscles. Kegel balls come in different sizes and weights. Some sets come with a string attached to help with removal, while some sets contain individual balls.
Vaginal cones are weighted devices that are similar to Kegel balls, except that they are cone shaped. Vaginal cones can be rigid or filled with gel or a fluid. Cones are inserted into the vagina and the pelvic floor muscles are squeezed to hold the cone in place. A study published in the October 1995 European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found that vaginal cones were effective in returning full continence for eight of 18 women after six weeks of use, with a further seven of the 18 women reporting some improvement in their incontinence.
According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, biofeedback uses mild electrical stimulation to help you identify your pelvic muscles and supplement Kegel exercises. A biofeedback device is a probe that is inserted into your vagina to help your muscles contract. The device can exercise the muscles for you, or your doctor can use the device to help you ensure you are performing the exercises correctly. Biofeedback devices include a monitor that lets you measure the length and intensity of the muscular contraction, and the devices can be wired or wireless.
A Kegel exerciser looks like a piece of equipment used to strengthen hand grip, but it provides resistance to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles when you perform Kegel exercises. The handles have smooth edges and a stop to prevent pinching. Once the handles are inserted into the vagina, you can turn a screw that allows the handles to spread apart. When you contract the vaginal and pelvic floor muscles, the handles are pushed together. Build muscle strength by holding the handles closed for several seconds, or fluttering the pelvic floor muscles to quickly open and close the handles.