Kegel exercises to aid prostatectomy recovery
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely been through a prostatectomy yourself, or know someone close to you who has. But let’s run through the basics anyway to bring everyone up to speed. A prostatectomy is a surgical procedure aimed at removing the whole prostate and the prostate cancer cells inside it. It’s often the best option for individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer if it’s not thought to have spread outside of the prostate gland. And where exactly is the prostate gland we hear you ask? It’s located in the male pelvis, below the urinary bladder. It surrounds the urethra, which transports urine from the bladder to the penis. The scope of a prostatectomy is dependent on the severity of the cancer, from an open radical prostatectomy to a laparoscopic radical prostatectomy.
The aftermath of a prostatectomy
After any major surgery, the body is under more stress than usual, and there are side effects that can occur afterward. With a prostatectomy these include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Erectile dysfunction
- Changes in orgasm
- Loss of fertility
- Inguinal hernia
Why do these side effects occur?
Hopefully, the prostatectomy will succeed in removing cancerous cells that could spread if left untreated. Surgery will be performed with the hope of preserving the nerves that run either side of the prostate but if the surgeon deems that the cancer is growing in or close to these nerves they will be removed. If this occurs, it can be difficult for men to generate an erection. Similarly, damage can occur to the muscles surrounding the area which can result in problems with urinary incontinence.
What are kegel exercises and how can they help?
OK, so now for the science part, Kegel exercises are exercises that strengthen the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles. These muscles are responsible for the contraction and relaxation of the bladder which helps control your urinary flow. Still with us? After a prostatectomy, these exercises can help to strengthen these muscles and, as a result, help you to improve any issues with incontinence.
Performing kegel exercises
These exercises are relatively easy to perform. The first step is to find the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles. Before you go searching with a hand mirror though, these muscles can be easily identified when you’re peeing if you attempt to stop mid-flow. Once they’re located, it’s recommended that you contract and hold your PC muscles for 10-20 seconds and then release them, repeating this exercise 10-20 times in a row, up to three or four times a day.
But before you start holding in your pee mid-flow, it’s important to note that it’s strongly recommended that you don’t perform these exercises while urinating, because this can negatively affect your ability to empty your bladder properly, which can then result in complications such as bladder infections. Your best bet is to perform these exercises after emptying your bladder.
Benefits of kegel exercises
At Elvie, we talk a lot about the benefits of Kegel exercises for men, but here are just a few of the specific benefits you might experience during life after prostate removal.
- Kegels can help to improve issues with incontinence as the stronger the PC muscles become the more they can support the bladder.
- Help to control the passage of wind and stools.
- They have been suggested as part of treatment for erectile dysfunction (combined with lifestyle changes for optimum results).
- Improved sexual performance (increased pleasure, delaying ejaculations etc).
You won’t see results overnight, but the long-term benefits can be massive so it’s important to persevere with Kegel exercises. Like any other muscle, they take time to strengthen – generally, you’ll start to see improvements to your continence and sexual performance within 4-6 weeks of consistent daily exercise.
The physical impacts of a prostatectomy can be challenging enough, let alone coupled with the mental impacts it can have. It’s important that you speak up about any issues you may be having after your operation whether that be incontinence, sexual performance or strains to mental health. Health professionals are there to support you in your recovery. There are also various support groups you can attend to meet others who are going through similar circumstances.
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.