PC Exercises for the Sensually Fit
If a weak pelvic muscle is sabotaging orgasm, these simple
exercises may restore joy to your love life. By Bryce Britton
and Stephen Kiesling
Here’s good news about making love. For women who
have difficulty achieving orgasm, there may be a solution:
a series of simple exercises - not costly therapy. For men,
these exercises seem to make erections easier and increase
control of orgasm. That report comes from psychiatrist Lucy
R. Waletzky, co-director of the Medical Illness Counseling
Center in Chevy Chase, MD.
Among women, lack of orgasm during intercourse is so common-from
33% to 80% of all women - that many doctors don't consider
it a sexual dysfunction. Dr. Waletzky says she and others
have now confirmed that ability to have orgasm correlates
with the contraction strength of the pubococcygeous, or
Although the PC muscle is interwoven with and surrounded
by four other sets of pelvic muscles, it is the master muscle
of the pelvis, slung like a hammock from front to back.
When healthy and fit, it holds a taut straight line. When
it's weak, the PC and the pelvic organs it supports tend
to sag, which can lead to urinary incontinence and sexual
problems. Pregnancy especially stretches the PC muscle.
Using a special muscle tester called an EMG Perineometer,
Waletzky tested the PC strength of 80 healthy women ages
20 to 80. She found that women who don't experience orgasm
at all tend to have weak PC contractions on a 10-second
"hold" test. Women who experience orgasm only
from direct stimulation of the *censored*oris tend to have
slightly stronger PC muscles. And women who experience orgasm
or multiple orgasms during intercourse are stronger still
- in this test, from two to five times stronger than women
who don't experience orgasm. This study confirms the findings
of psychologist John Perry, the inventor of the EMG Perineometer.
A taut PC won't compensate for psychological problems or
poor technique, cautions Waletzky. However, in many cases
15 minutes of exercises each day for a month or more can
strengthen the PC muscle and enable previously anorgasmic
women to have orgasm during intercourse.
Small Triumphs Against Disease
At her Medical Illness Counseling Center, Waletzky and
her therapeutic teams do clinical work and research on the
psychopathology of chronic diseases - the emotional problems
caused by being sick all the time. Whether a patient has
terminal cancer or mild diabetes, the center's aim is to
help a man or a woman regain as much as possible of what
makes life worth living. Among the sick, she finds the loss
of sexual satisfaction to be clinically very important.
Word is beginning to spread. Care professionals in medical
centers around the country now call Waletzky for guidance
on this type of therapy.
A 56-year-old woman with uterine cancer had a hysterectomy
and radiation therapy. At first, she was anorgasmic and
suffered pain on intercourse as well as recurring vaginal
and urinary tract infections. The pain and infections stopped
soon after she started the PC exercises. After eight months.
she had doubled her PC strength - and, as a result, experienced
orgasm during intercourse.
As Waletzky says, "Orgasm is an important part of
optimal physical and emotional health for everyone. Further
research is needed to clarify how many PC exercises are
needed - apparently men need fewer than women - and their
place in regular sex therapy. In the meantime, this exercise
treatment is free, simple and may do a world of good. "
Not for Women Only
Though Waletzky's PC research has focused on women, her
clinical experience with a few male patients suggests similar
benefits from PC strengthening.
Bernie Zilbergeld, an Oakland, CA. psychologist formerly
with the University of California's Human Sexuality Program,
tried the exercises himself and found the results "interesting"-so
interesting that he began recommending the exercise program
to his patients.
Dr. William E. Hartman and Marilyn Fithian, sex researchers
and co-directors of the Center for Marital and Sexual Studies,
Long Beach, CA, report that PC exercises alone can make
erections possible or more frequent, and increase sexual
endurance for 50% of the men who come to their clinic.
The PC, or "Kegel," exercises grew out of research
on incontinence. In 1952, a University of Southern California
gynecologist, Arnold Kegel, developed a series of exercises
for patients undergoing surgery for bladder control. These
were PC-muscle exercises. They proved so effective that
he prescribed them not only after surgery for gynecological
or urinary problems, but as an alternative to it (see "Help
for Stress Incontinence").
A joyful side effect was that after doing PC exercises,
some patients experienced orgasm during intercourse for
the first time, or more easily than ever. Kegel reported
in a clinical study - one without a control group - that
78% of 123 women who completed the exercise program had
orgasms during intercourse for the first time. The exercises
seemed to give them more sensation in their vaginas.
Over the years, physicians have identified at least 18
more gynecological and obstetrical conditions - including
urinary tract infections and menstrual cramps - that can
be relieved or cured simply by exercising the muscle a few
minutes a day. The relief results in part from fitter, more
relaxed pelvic muscles, increased blood circulation and
better sensory awareness in the region.
"It only takes a little practice, " says Dr.
Fred Weaver III at Martin Luther King Hospital in Los Angeles.
"The exercises can be done unobtrusively while sitting
at a desk, waiting for a bus, driving a car, waiting in
line or watching a movie. I recommend that all of my patients
incorporate them into their health regime. "
Once you start the exercises, it'll take about 15 minutes
a day for at least three weeks before you can expect the
first signs of the control you will later achieve. Stay
with it. The benefits to general health and well-being can
Bryce Britton is the author of The Love Muscle: Every Woman's
Guide to Intensifying Sexual Pleasure; (310) 450-5553. Stephen
Kiesling is a senior editor of American Health.
Help for Stress Incontinence
Laughing so hard you wet your pants is one of those amusing
but embarrassing moments that we don't generally worry about-until
it takes just a small laugh, a sneeze or a slight strain
from lifting to trigger the spillage. Others find that as
they grow older, their bladders seem to shrink. It forces
them to urinate frequently and makes an uninterrupted night's
Both problems may stem from a gradual weakening of the
pelvic floor. That sagging alters the relationship between
the bladder and the urethra, which allows urine to leak
and can make the bladder seem smaller. All too often, people
suffer these symptoms silently - letting the muscles slowly
deteriorate until submitting finally to diapers or surgery.
It doesn't have to be that way. A growing body of research
indicates that regular PC exercises may help prevent stress
incontinence and "shrinking" bladders-and cure
the symptoms. If you suffer urinary leakage, consult your
doctor to make sure muscle weakness is the only problem,
then begin the exercises.
If incontinence requires such special help as sanitary
clothing, send for HIP's "Resource Guide of Continence
Aids and Services" ($3). HIP-Help for Incontinent People
- is a not-for-profit information clearinghouse. Write HIP
Resource Guide, P. 0. Box 544 Union, SC 29739.
The PC Program
PC exercises are simple . . . maybe too simple. They're
deceptive, both because these minor movements can have such
major health consequences and because its easy to work the
wrong muscle. Test to properly identify the PC. Repeat the
test often as you work through the program.
Isolate the muscle. Sit on the toilet, spread your legs
as far as possible, and start and stop the flow of urine.
For both women and men, the PC muscle is the only one that
can accomplish this. Start and stop the flow three times
to set the PC action in your mind. Then empty the bladder
completely. To make sure of working the right muscle while
exercising, women can insert a finger into the vagina and
feel the contractions. If you're still not sure, Dr. Perry
will tell you where to find a local testing facility with
an EMG Perineometer. Call 800-537-3779.
Flicks. In time to a fast beat – such as the beat
of your heart - contract and release your PC muscle. Be
sure you can feel when the muscle relaxes and when it contracts.
Holds. Maximally contract the PC and hold for 10 seconds.
At the very end of the contraction, squeeze once rapidly,
harder and deeper, then release for 10 seconds.
Bear Downs. Bear down for three seconds; relax and repeat.
This particular Kegel is not advised for women with pelvic
Gradual Holds. Slowly over 10 seconds contract the PC muscle
to maximum, and slowly over 10 seconds reduce the tension.
For best results, do these exercises for a total of 15
minutes every day and follow Waletzky's weekly program outlined
here. To chart your progress, write down any changes you
notice in sexual response, urinary symptoms, emotions or
images. For increased sexual response, you might practice
these exercises during intercourse.
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