What is Pelvic Floor Muscle Stimulation? | Kegel8 Expert Advice

What is Pelvic Floor Muscle Stimulation? | Kegel8 Expert Advice


So let’s talk about STIM. What is stimulation? How does it work, and how do these machines work? Well stimulation has been around for a really long time. You used to have to go to the physiotherapy clinic to do your STIM and you still can and your physiotherapist can help you with it. But the machines used to be very big and the probe that goes inside also used to be very big and very scary. And the wonderful thing is it’s all got a lot smaller with modern technology. But the principle of how it works hasn’t changed at all. This little machine can create an electrical impulse and send it to this bit that goes inside the body. Most people don’t realise that all our muscles are made to work by electrical impulses travelling down our nerves. That’s all that this is doing is sending electrical impulses to these bars and these bars – we’re going to try and get them to sit right where your muscle is. And as those electrical impulses go into the muscle, the nerves pick up the electricity just like it would come from your brain and then tell the nerve to do the job that they always tell the nerve to do – which is to contract. So we can use this machine almost like an artificial brain, to try and get your muscle to do something that maybe your brain’s not very good at doing at the moment. Or maybe if the muscles become particularly weak? Well if you are – if the muscles very weak, you find that when you’ve tried to make it do the job, it’s getting tired, and you’re running out of steam yourself. So because this is artificial, it can keep the muscle exercising for longer than you might be able to keep it exercising yourself. It also makes sure that every single fiber or more fibers, are getting picked picking up that electrical impulse then maybe the message that comes from your brain. Maybe the message that’s coming from your brain is not getting into all the fibers. So it seems to be that it gets more of the muscle working. I suppose a bit like they say about Heineken – getting into parts other bits can’t reach. So that’s another way that it can help. So then what has to happen is you have to choose the right setting to get the muscle to do what you want it to do. And fortunately, clever people have worked out what is the best settings to get the muscles to actually contract. Initially, when you get the electrical current coming, all you’re going to feel is sensation – like a tingling feeling. Or on some of the settings, more of a thud-y setting. But as you turn up the amplitude, which is like turning up the volume on a radio, the tingling gets stronger, but the muscle fibers start to perform their function until eventually, the muscle will actually contract and you’ll feel weird because you’ll think ‘I didn’t do that’. You can feel it happening inside – contracting and relaxing. Now how long it contracts for and how long it relaxes for is all decided for you by the machine, not by your brain. The machines are set up to give you what we hope is an optimum contract and relax phase, so you won’t get too tired. So the muscle can exercise but not get exhausted. And so what does that do then? If this machine is stimulating the contraction, what is that doing for the muscle? So to grow muscles, they have to be made to work and to rest. If we were going to grow the muscles in our arms, we would do some exercises that would make our muscles contract and relax. And when we’re very weak, we start with no resistance at all. But as you get stronger, you add resistance to make that muscle grow more and more. Now the stimulation does the very first bit of that exercising for you. The lower resistance – pure tighten and relax. There isn’t any resistance to work against, but it makes it easy for the muscle to do that job, and as the muscle is repeatedly made to do that, then you get changes inside the muscle tissue for the muscle to be able to perform that again and again. So you’re teaching your muscle and encouraging it to grow. And what’s the difference between you mention slow and fast twitch fibers, are these fibers in the muscle, what role do they play? So every muscle in the body is made up of a different proportion of fast twitch and slow twitch fibers. And in the pelvic floor we’re 70% slow twitch fibers, and these are the ones that we use for endurance and posture, and to hold us up. They can go on and on for a long time. I always think of them as being like the Mo Farah of the running world. They can go for a long time. But we also fast have 30% of our muscles are fast twitch and they can respond more powerfully and more quickly but they don’t last as long. So that’s like your sprinter – your Usain Bolt – he can sprint for 10 seconds and then he’s done. Now in real life we need both those kinds of fibers. The one we’re probably most familiar with is the job of the quick ones – the fast twitch fibers – because they’re the ones that jump in if you’re going to cough, or sneeze or pick up something heavy. They’ve got the be there fast, but it’s not going to last very long. And that’s where we have the 30%. But we tend to forget that the rest of the day, you’re on your feet, you’re lifting and carrying, and it’s these same pelvic floor muscles that have got to hold you up, and the day can be relentless. And they have to do this postural hold all day. They have to be the marathon runner. So we have to have a really good foundation of slow twitch fibers to give us that endurance. When we’re practicing our exercises without a machine, that’s when we’re practicing holding, and counting to ten, those are the endurance fibers. Compared to when you’re squeezing and letting go, and squeezing and letting go – that’s your fast twitch function. The machine can help you to practice both of those things as well.

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