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Kegels: Helpful or Harmful? Our Pelvic Floor Therapist Weighs In

If you’re a woman, you probably think of kegels as one more piece of self-care. Get eight hours of sleep, eat an extra serving of veggies, and do your kegels. While kegels have their place, Naomi Harris says that they were never intended to be a stand-alone exercise for all women.

A physical therapist for over 30 years, Naomi specializes in pelvic floor disorders. She advises that kegels are not inherently dangerous, but doing them improperly could be. Are kegels doing you more harm than good?

What is a Kegel?

A kegel is a voluntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. The goal of kegels is to strengthen the pelvic floor and decrease urinary issues that come with aging and/or childbirth (such as leakage and urgency). While the goal seems pretty straightforward, Naomi says that not all women need to be doing kegels and many women are doing them incorrectly.

Like Every Exercise, Proper Form is Crucial

“Think of a kegel like any other exercise,” says Naomi. “There are different variations of a kegel just like there are different ways to do a squat. You can practice holding a squat, you can do quick contractions, and so on. In the same way, an effective kegel includes a proper contraction, release, and even proper breathing. If you don’t understand what you’re doing, you’re not helping yourself.”

All Tension and No Length

Naomi also warns that if a woman’s pelvic floor is already tight, kegels can shorten it too much and cause painful intercourse, painful childbirth, or urinary problems.

“All muscles function best when they have appropriate length and tension. Contracting the muscles regularly will just aggravate the tension. There’s not much power in a muscle that doesn’t get the appropriate length.”

Some women actually develop the urinary symptoms they’re trying to prevent by doing kegels. “Overtime, training your bladder to stop and start the flow of urine sends a signal to your brain for ineffective release. If you’re not releasing urine completely, this can lead to frequency and urge incontinence.”

Who Should do Kegels?


If you have a weak pelvic floor, kegels can help. Women with urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or trauma (surgical, child birth, sexual, accidents) can all benefit from kegels but they should understand how to do them correctly.

“Not everyone needs see a pelvic floor therapist but if you have pelvic issues like incontinence, or unexplained pelvic pain, it’s a great idea to come in and be educated.” Naomi also adds that kegels are just one tool in an integrated approach to improve pelvic floor disorders.

If any of the symptoms above affect your quality of life, learn more about pelvic floor therapy here or call our Professional Center at (801) 475-3870 to schedule a consultation with Naomi Harris.

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