Both prior to my operation and after the subsequent removal of the catheter, I had been regaled to do regular pelvic floor exercises. I’d heard of pelvic floor exercises, of course, but hitherto exclusively in relation to the fairer sex. I’d never heard them mentioned in relation to men and, even having heard of them, I had no clue as to how to perform them.
The point of pelvic floor exercises is to strengthen the pubococcygeus muscles (also known as PC muscles). Wow, what on earth are those? For folks unfamiliar with a particular muscle group, locating those muscles is the first hurdle to be jumped. I had been offered or had read various helpful hints on how to “locate” my pelvic floor muscles.
- One information leaflet said that these were the muscles which one used if one attempted to stop urinating once having started. Not an easy task – clearly my muscles did need exercising – but I thought I knew what it meant. The leaflet went on to say that, if I contracted the correct muscles, my testicles would rise slightly. Hmmm, so they do. 😉
- My surgeon offered that clenching these muscles was “like trying to raise one’s willy without one’s hands”. [Ed: Arghhh! There’s that dreadful word again and from a medical professional, no less!!] Well, of course without one’s hands; that would be a very different exercise.
- One particularly intriguing American article discovered on the Internet suggested that, with the aid of lubrication, I should insert a finger into my anus and “try to squeeze it”. My oh my, what fun one can have seeking out muscle groups!
Incidentally, in an exchange of details with an American former colleague who has been through the same mill through which I am currently going, I discovered that pelvic floor exercises are referred to as Kegel exercises in the States. Not only do Americans apparently enjoy a different method of locating these muscles but the exercising of them has a different name, too. Add this to the growing collection of language pairs: biscuit/scone; cookie/biscuit; rutabaga/Swede; zucchini/courgette and so on. As with most things American, I blame the Pilgrim Fathers for what I like to refer to as collective memory loss. Yes, I know perfectly well that those guys knew nothing of pelvic floors or Kegels but the mental image of a shipload of pilgrims all trying to locate their pubococcygeus muscles is simply too irresistible.
Anyway, #1 worked for me without the need for lubrication and dubious American practices. Having found them, I’ve been trying to maintain a regime. One exercise technique is to contract the muscles and hold for as long as possible. During the course of a day, 10 sets of 10 such contractions is suggested. The length of time it’s possible to hold the muscles clenched builds up as muscle strength increases. Another suggested exercise, to be mixed in with the first, is to do 10 rapid clench/release cycles. Naturally in the money-obsessed land of the free, capitalism rears its ugly head and hardware devices can be purchased to assist with your Kegel exercises. Some even have a digital read-out! From what I’ve seen, they are for women only – a kind of vaginal equivalent to a chest expander. :O
The handy thing about pelvic floor exercises is that you can do them pretty much anywhere and nobody need know – unless, of course, you’re using one of those hardware devices or allowing your efforts to contort your facial expression. “What are you up to?” “Oh, nothing.” [Whistles nonchalantly] Commercial breaks on TV are handy – mute the sound and distract yourself from the banality by doing a set of 10 clenches. Having trouble sleeping? Never mind counting sheep, count pelvic floor contractions instead. The passenger seat of a car is also a good spot to keep the exercise regime going. I thought I’d be able to do them whilst doing something else but, alas, some concentration is required, even if only to count, and men never were good at multi-tasking, or so we are constantly told. So, probably not a good idea to attempt a set of 10 in the driver’s seat of the car, then.
So, here I am after three weeks at home mostly keeping up my regime of pelvic floor exercises and life is certainly a little easier. At first, the only way I could do any task was to do it sitting down. Now I am managing a few short-lived tasks, like coffee making, standing up with the ol’ Kegels clenched – and no pained expression on my face, either. I can get to the loo without leaking all the way there and, given this extra measure of control, I have reduced my pad usage to one a day in the main.
Certainly, my improvement is not yet what I’d call continence. Without the muscle control I’d still be leaking. Use of the muscles may helping me day to day tasks but it is definitely controlling rather than fixing my leak, at the moment, anyway. All my enjoyed pastimes require me to spend hours at a time on my feet so I need to get beyond controlling the leak. I couldn’t, for example, go for a 5-mile walk with my pelvic floor muscles clenched all the way. Still, I am but three weeks into what was always expected to be a process measured in months rather than weeks. My fingers remain crossed.
Whether these exercises actually help continence is a debated issue in the medical world. Still, doing the exercises certainly doesn’t do any harm so I will definitely continue. It is, after all, the only proactive step available to me. Everything else is down to time and luck.
Finally, during the course of my journey through diagnosis and treatment, I’d accumulated quite a stack of printed material. It’s quite amazing how much bumf they throw at you, possibly hoping to distract you from your unenviable situation. Since I am now firmly locked in to my course of action, I decided to have a clear out. After all, there is no longer anything to be gained from my keeping lists of pros and cons for the various treatment options available. I also had a couple of sheets explaining those pelvic floor exercise techniques. Having been doing them for three weeks, I figured those sheets were no longer necessary, either. As I was tossing them onto the discard pile, something I had previously not spotted caught my eye:
Pelvic floor muscles can also be used to help in delaying premature ejaculation.
Why the hell didn’t someone tell me that 40 years ago?