Are pelvic floor exercises the same as Kegels?

It’s all in the name…

The simple answer is – yes!

The name “Kegel” is commonly used in the United States, but the term “pelvic floor exercises” is generally used elsewhere, often shortened to PFE. You may also see the abbreviation PFME and this is still the same thing, but stands for “pelvic floor muscle exercises”.

So why did they get the rather unusual name of Kegel in the first place?

In 1948, an American gynaecologist called Arnold Kegel first described the exercises we are now so familiar with. He suggested that they were a good way to exercise and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

Dr Kegel also used a perineometer (a device to detect changes in pressure inside the vagina during a pelvic floor squeeze) to help women understand what the exercises were, and to measure their effects. His research showed the benefits of practising pelvic floor exercises to reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Pelvic floor exercises had not really been described or taught prior to this, although there is some disagreement over this point, as a British physiotherapist called Minnie Randall documented the same exercises in her book, “Fearless Childbirth,” also published in 1948. The work she did at St Thomas’ Hospital in London is considered to be the origin of pelvic health physiotherapy.

While we are on the topic of names, it is interesting to note that Minnie Randall started the specialty within physiotherapy that focuses on the pelvic floor and the impact of pregnancy and childbirth. This became known as physiotherapy in obstetrics and gynaecology, or women’s health physiotherapy. Many years have passed and we now work with men’s pelvic floors too. As a result, we have started moving towards the term “pelvic health physiotherapy” to cover all sexes.

So, whether you do your kegel exercises, or your pelvic floor exercises, they are exactly the same thing!

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