Here’s what’s Wrong with the ‘kGoal’

In Uncategorizedby pelv_admin11 Comments

kgoal

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)
  • constipation,
  • 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:

Video Games and Apps for your Vagina: A Newer, but not Necesarily better way to Kegel

kGoal: What’s the Big Deal?

Now we want to hear from you! What do you think of the kGoal? Leave your comments below…

All my best,

Stephanie

Comments

  1. Unfortunate in many ways, and may create more business for you and more victims of pelvic pain. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. I totally agree this is the first time I posted but this issue needs to be voices and addressed.. I have been doing pelvic work since 1991 and was fortunate to work with Rhonda Kotarinos DPT when I first started who brought to my attention short pelvic floors.. Thank you Rhonda ..

    It scares me but I am not surprised that someone has come up with this device.
    I am so glad you posted this to help bring awareness to therapists and individuals who have short tense pelvic floors.. Including therapists.
    . All the education that we have done as therapists and how important it is to check the “idle ” or resting tone… And here comes the pelvic fit bit.
    I know that there has been research demonstrating that 52% of those individuals doing kegels do them wrong and 20%,( I might be off a slight bit), Actually make their problems worse.
    I know I have seen apps for kegels as well..

    Thank you Stephanie for bringing this device to our attention..
    “Strength does not equal control “and the harder folks doing this device try to achieve the goal mark the more global and poor in affective outcomes and problems can occur..it makes me want to do
    ” squat drops” just hearing this.
    Sincerely and let’s continue to educate and empower!
    Laurie PT

  3. Great article Stephanie. It’s so important for women to understand this so they don’t end up creating pain (or more pain). Thanks for writing!

    Lorraine

  4. What about males who have had prostate surgery done? You never see any thing being done for male Urinary Incontinence. Things like CPPS, Incontinence, are almost never discussed or have all kinds of effective treatments listed. Men are SOL as far as that goes. I do Kegels because of issues from my TURP procedure. I suffer CPPS also I believe from that surgery.

    1. Hi Wilburn,

      I am glad you asked this question. Recently there as an article in the NY tImes featuring a device for men to exercise their pelvic floor muscles. While some points are misleading, the author did discuss a study demonstrating that pelvic floor PT can help post-prostectomy incontinence. We are planning to do a blog post about this next week, so stay tuned!

      -Stephanie

  5. Great insights and information for women to understand how and when and if they are candidates for this product. I wrote a blog about my concerns about the KGoal. My primary concern is the idea and message that the end and beginning of restoring pelvic health is pelvic floor strengthening. The PT that helped consult on the product weighed in and was very receptive to my concerns. In fact her role is to provide pro and consumer feedback as they move into completion of the development and production of the product. She was open to discussing adding literature to the product that discussed its role in a comprehensive program. It would be great if additional info on who should use it, signs that your pelvic floor is actually overactive and KGoal may actual make things worse, etc would be great for the product insert. Great that we can have collegial discussions about these and other products. I will pass your blog to her. Thanks Stephanie! Julie

    1. Hi Julie,

      I choose to blog about the first issue I had with KGoal, and thankfully your blog tackled the second. I enjoyed your post on the topic and I am glad you enjoyed mine. The Kickstarter video is ridden with misleading information and is generating well-needed conversation around this important topic.

  6. Great article Stephanie! While a good device can sometimes be helpful for the right patient, the “one size fits all” mentality regarding kegels and strengthening of the pelvic floor unfortunately continues to persist. Great job of highlighting why strengthening is not for everyone and why good pelvic floor therapists are so important!

  7. Thank you for your bog. It helped me understand about kegels. I’m seeing a pelvic floor therapist and didn’t understand that the exercises that she gave me were different than what a lot of products were selling.
    Thanks again!

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