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Kegel exercises reduce urinary incontinence in women, study confirms

incontinence is more common in women than men, with between 10 percent and 40 percent of adult women thought to be affected. People may avoid discussing the condition with their physicians, so prevalence is difficult to gauge.

The exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, have been around for decades and their efficacy has been long debated, said Kathryn L. Burgio, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. "The value of this review is the stringent look at data to prove it is effective," she said.

Kegel exercises consist of regularly contracting and relaxing the pubococcygeus muscles of the pelvic floor, which support the bladder. The correct muscles must be used, Burgio said, and the exercises usually must be done regularly for several weeks before any improvement is seen. Some women, and some doctors, may give up too quickly, before the exercises show any benefit.

Other treatments for incontinence include lifestyle interventions, behavioral training, bladder training, anti-incontinence devices, biofeedback, medications and surgery. In New Zealand, Kegel exercises and lifestyle changes are the first line of treatment for urinary incontinence, Hay-Smith said. Patients are referred to physiotherapists or nurses trained in continence management, which may combine exercises with other forms of treatment, depending on the diagnosis.

Hay-Smith said that many women she sees say they tried Kegel exercises, but are actually not doing them right. "But by the time I have been through a full clinical history and physical examination, taught a correct pelvic floor muscle contraction and tailored a program to my assessment findings, many women say they clearly haven't been doing [Kegels] in the past -- they only thought they were."


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Contact: Jean Hay-Smith
jean.hay-smith@otago.ac.nz
Center for the Advancement of Health
2-Feb-2006


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