By Stephanie Prendergast
There’s a new Kegel aid poised to hit the market called the “kGoal,” and enthusiasts are touting it as “the new FitBit for the vagina”. But, while kGoal has been generating a ton of press, there are problems with the device and how its being marketed.
Before I go any further with the issues I have with this product, here’s a little description of what it is and what it’s meant to do:
Minna Life, the San Francisco-based sexual health startup developing the kGoal, is aiming to gamify Kegel exercises by linking a device—a squeezable silicone “pillow,” that is inserted into the vagina—to an app that delivers real-time biofeedback to the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth. Sensors in the device determine if exercises are being done “correctly” and calculate repetitions.
From there, users can “track their performance” using metrics like “average squeeze time” and “weekly improvement.” Tracking “progress” and “improvement” developers hope, will encourage users to commit to Kegeling and as a result “improve their overall health.”
“Pelvic floor muscles are one of the most important, yet least appreciated, parts of the body,” says the product’s designer, Grace Lee, in a promotional video. “But many people never think about exercising them.” This comment speaks to the first problem I have with kGoal: it’s yet another product that is touting one-size-fits-all benefits of Kegels.
As we’ve discussed in detail on this blog, Kegels are simply not appropriate for every woman.
Pelvic floor physical therapists regularly make the distinction between low-tone (weak or “short”) and high-tone (too tight) pelvic floor muscles when evaluating patients. They then prescribe individualized treatment plans to eradicate and reduce a patient’s symptoms based on their objective findings. While Kegels may be just the thing for a weak pelvic floor, a woman (or man for that matter) with a tight pelvic floor should not do Kegels.
Complicating things is that high-tone, tight pelvic floor muscles can (and often do) come across as weak.
Bottom line: The kGoal is simply not capable of distinguishing a low-tone or “weak” pelvic floor from a high-tone or “too tight” pelvic floor.
Think about it: because tight muscles are already contracted, they cannot contract to squeeze the “pillow” and generate the force needed to register a contraction on the biofeedback app. Despite this, the kGoal will tell the user that she is weak and to contract further, which is not physiologically possible. But the user doesn’t realize this, so she’ll continue her attempts to “squeeze harder”. These repeated attempts to contract the pelvic floor muscles will aggravate any myofascial trigger points and can irritate the pudendal nerve.
The moral of this story is that short, tight, and apparently weak muscles need to be lengthened, not tightened.
If you’re not someone who has dealt with the symptoms of a tight pelvic floor, you might wonder why a tight muscle is a bad thing. Well, when it comes to the pelvic floor, too tight muscles can cause dysfunction and symptoms, such as genital pain, urinary urgency and frequency, and constipation, among others.
The pelvic floor muscles are not like other muscles in the body in that they are the only group of muscles that never get to rest, ever. If they were to completely relax, incontinence would ensue. So, they are working all the time to maintain continence, to support our pelvic organs, and to contribute to our posture and stability.
So these muscles are “working out” all the time, and do not need extra strengthening from doing Kegels.
Unless, that is, something has happened that has overstretched them or injured them in some way that has made them truly weak (not weak AND tight). Pelvic floor muscles can become overstretched and weak after childbirth, around menopause, and after certain pelvic surgeries. And this overstretching and weakening can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, stress urinary incontinence, and low back pain.
But again, the kGoal simply cannot distinguish between muscles that are truly weak and those that are appearing weak because they are tight. Understandably, many women cannot make this distinction either. So this device is inevitably going to instruct women to do exercises that are counterproductive to their physiology, which may lead to:
- Urinary urgency, frequency and burning (in the absence of infection)
- painful intercourse,
- diminished orgasm
- and vaginal, clitoral, or anal pain/burning.
Kegels are appropriate when the pelvic floor is truly weak and/or overstretched. I prescribe them all the time for this patient demographic. And there are many experts in the field of pelvic floor rehabilitation that will strongly agree that doing Kegels are appropriate when pelvic floor muscles are overstretched and/or weak.
Here I will even go so far as to say that I would actually recommend kGoal for my patients that are truly weak and need to Kegel as part of their treatment plan.
I’m not the only one blogging about kGoal! Check out these two other great blogs on the matter:
Now we want to hear from you! What do you think of the kGoal? Leave your comments below…
All my best,