The non-invasive treatment strengthens your pelvic floor muscles to help with issues including incontinence and diastasis recti.

By Brittany Loggins
January 12, 2021
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Credit: Courtesy of Merchant

Do you ever find that you have sudden, uncontrollable urges to urinate (that are not due to a urinary tract infection) or that you often wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom? Or worse — do you tend to leak a little bit of pee when exercising, coughing, or laughing?

Although you may feel slightly embarrassed about it, you should know that incontinence is not at all uncommon. Urinary incontinence affects twice as many women as men, and while it can happen at any age, it's usually more prevalent in older women (most likely due to hormonal changes during menopause and pregnancy, which can weaken the pelvic floor). FWIW, more than 4 in 10 women 65 and older have urinary incontinence, according to the Office On Women's Health. (Related: What Every Woman Should Know About Pelvic Floor Dysfunction)

Pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, and menopause all affect the bladder, urethra, and other muscles — including your pelvic floor muscles — that support these organs. Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis, including gluteal, perianal, and vaginal muscles. Strong pelvic floor muscles give you control over your bladder, while weakened pelvic floor muscles could mean that your internal organs are not fully supported, and also affect how you control the release of urine.

One solution to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and minimize incontinence is a DIY method you've probably heard of before: Kegel exercises. "Kegel maneuvers are the flexion of the pelvic floor done as an exercise to improve urinary and sexual health in men and women of all ages," explains Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and founder of PFRANKMD. To perform Kegel exercises, you contract your pelvic floor muscles.

Sounds easy, right? Believe it or not, around 30 percent of women actually do Kegel exercises wrong, pushing down rather than lifting the pelvic floor muscles up, says Jodie Horton, M.D., an ob-gyn based in Washington, DC, who is also a wellness advisor for Love Wellness. She notes that women often contract their buttocks or inner thighs instead of their pelvic floor, which can lead to strain and increase abdominal pressure, which has the opposite effect on curbing incontinence. “Chronic straining can increase the risk for developing or making pelvic prolapse [when the muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs become weak or loose] and urinary leakage worse,” points out Dr. Horton.

This makes it crucial to do Kegel exercises correctly. If you're still not sure how exactly to perform Kegel exercises, just imagine having a straw in the vagina, and trying to pull fluid through the straw, says Dr. Horton. Once you’ve squeezed the muscles and contracted them upward, hold them for three seconds and then relax for three seconds, she instructs. Practice this in 10-15 reps three times per day (which adds up to 30-45 Kegels daily), adds Dr. Horton. (Related: What Are Kegels Exactly — And How Do You Do Them?)

Fortunately, you don't need a gym membership to train your pelvic floor muscles, but rather Kegel exercises are something you can discreetly do while working from your desk, driving your car, or even riding the subway. However, sometimes you might not have the time or energy to do them, you might simply forget, or you might have trouble doing them correctly.

If you're looking for a more intense kegel experience without putting in the work, direct your attention to the Emsella Chair, a vibrating chair that essentially does Kegel exercises for you — 20,000 reps in a single 30-minute treatment, to be exact.

What's the Deal with This Emsella Chair?

This vibrating chair combines two electromagnetic energy treatments: Emsella and Emsculpt. Emsella is a non-invasive, FDA-approved treatment that uses electromagnetic energy to engage the pelvic floor muscles by causing them to contract rapidly. Emsculpt uses High‐Intensity Focused Electromagnetic Energy (HIFEM), a technology that induces muscle contractions and has been used to target other muscle groups (often in the abdomen). When Emsculpt treatments are given by themselves, they generally look like little belts that are wrapped around the abdomen or other areas the patient wants to target.

Perhaps the craziest part about the combined treatment is that it simply requires you to sit on a chair, and the electromagnetic pulses will stimulate your muscles from there. "It utilizes two HIFEM therapies to strengthen the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles," says Dr. Frank, who was the first cosmetic dermatologist to offer this device that combines both treatments. "The result is increased muscle hypertrophy and hyperplasia and restoration of neuromuscular control." Translation: It increases muscle cell growth to strengthen the pelvic floor and allow for better involuntary control of the muscles. (Related: 5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Her Pelvic Floor)

The type of therapy — which Dr. Frank also calls "core to floor therapy" — used in the Emsella Chair "is the first preventative and corrective therapy solution for pelvic floor muscles that addresses the whole core," he says. "Stimulation leads to regained control over the pelvic floor muscles and bladder. The regained control helps with back pain, improves posture, and strengthens your core."

Yes, the pelvic floor is actually part of the core. Pelvic floor muscles work with your diaphragm and abdominal muscles (your core) to support the bladder, uterus, and other internal organs, says Dr. Horton. That's why strengthening all these muscles together can be particularly useful for women who are experiencing postpartum abdominal muscle separation (aka diastasis recti) or urinary incontinence, as well as those experiencing back pain or balance issues.

What's great about Emsella is that it is a non-surgical, painless procedure with zero recovery time. More than 90 percent of women state that they are satisfied with the procedure and have improved their symptoms and quality of life, says Dr. Horton. Not only are the treatments especially good for women who want to restore bladder and muscle control, but they could also help give you more intense orgasms, she says. “It may not only help restore the ability to control your bladder but some have reported stronger orgasms and improved vaginal lubrication,” says Dr. Horton.

According to Dr. Frank's website, participants can expect to feel "tingling and pelvic floor muscle contractions during the procedure." Dr. Frank views the treatment as an "essential component to maintaining cosmetic and structural health to the body through age," and recommends six treatments twice a week for three weeks. However, he notes that patients will see (or feel) results after two treatments. After these initial treatments, maintenance depends on the severity of the issue and can range from once a year to once a month — but in the interim, you should continue doing regular Kegel exercises on your own, he says. (Related: The 6 Best Kegel Balls for Better Sex)

The thing is, though? It costs $3,000 for six sessions, which is certainly more expensive than doing Kegel exercises at home on your own. Before investing in this pricey treatment, you might want to speak to your doctor to ensure that Emsella is the right fit for you. If your incontinence issue is not serious enough to require professional treatment, there are plenty of pelvic floor exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine.

If Kegel devices have piqued your interest, you can shop for more affordable options online. While they won't yield these exact results, they can help to reap similar benefits of strengthening your pelvic floor muscles on a budget and at home. Weighted balls and devices make it easier to perform Kegel exercise correctly since they force you to squeeze in an upward motion. The options with added weight work similarly to weight training your body — as you build endurance and strength, you can increase the weights. Shop the best products for practicing Kegel exercise at home below.

Adorime Kegel Exercise Weights

Credit: AMAZON

These Kegel weights are designed especially for those looking to regain their bladder control. The balls are made of soft, safe-to-use, waterproof silicone, and come in four different weights — so you can start with the lightest and work your way up. Not to mention, they've earned over 1,700 five-star ratings on Amazon.

One reviewer wrote: “After 3 children and a failed bladder tack, I've been experiencing slight incontinence for many years now. I came across these and decided to give them a try. I've been following the directions to a T, and after only using them for 2 [weeks] I noticed a difference. After using for 6 [weeks] I'm not using a pad for the first time in 15 [years]!”

Bodyotics Deluxe Kegel Weighted Exercise Balls

Credit: AMAZON

This pear-shaped, silicone Kegel ball set is meant to accommodate beginners and pros alike. Available in six different weights, they help to tighten your pelvic floor muscles and help to minimize incontinence. The brand claims that using one of these balls for 15 minutes is equivalent to doing about 100 Kegel exercise reps. 

"I have been researching ways to correct incontinence for a while, explains a customer. "I've worked in the medical field for years and surgeons always recommend surgery. I have 3 kids, and as you get older, the Kegel exercises your ob-gyn recommends after childbirth just don't do the trick. I found these and decided after reading reviews, I would give them a try. They are very comfortable, and each weight gradually builds your muscles that become weaker after childbirth."

Joy ON Kegel Exerciser with App

Looking to make pelvic floor exercise a bit less boring? This Bluetooth-enabled Kegel device offers games to pass the time, allows you to track your training and improvement in real-time, and even has a massage function that can double as a vibrator. Amazon reviewers love how it and is even great for beginners. One reviewer shared that it has helped her “build muscle strength after childbirth" and she can laugh and sneeze again without having to change her clothes.

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