Ever since 50 Shades was released, people have questions about “those little silver balls.” Unfortunately, society has taken the extensive topic of pelvic health and oversimplified it into a cure-all: kegel exercises. Of course, there’s way more to the story. Here’s everything you need to know regarding how to use kegel balls.
The pelvic floor is a sling-shaped group of muscles in your pelvis
It stretches from your tailbone to pubic bone (back-to-front) and from one sitting bone to the other (side-to-side). Think of it as a trampoline of muscle.
Everyone—regardless of sex or gender—has pelvic floor muscles.
It has many different functions…
The pelvic floor…
- supports your pelvic organs including the bladder, bowel, and uterus.
- gives you control when using the bathroom (both 1 and 2)
- provides support for the baby during pregnancy
- assists with the birthing process
- connects to your core muscles and diaphragm, helping you to stabilize your spine, maintain proper posture, and breathe deeply in a 360-degrees
…including helping you experience orgasm
There’s a whole bunch of muscles involved when you climax, including those of the uterus, vagina, pelvis, penis, anus, and prostate gland. The PC muscles, which are most talked about when it comes to kegel exercises, are also part of this big ol’ pleasure system.
These muscles, in turn, connect to your abs and butt. That’s why sometimes your legs twitch or you roll up during an orgasm. It’s also why having a strong core helps you have better sex.
Kegels are one exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor
You can do them on your own (in fact just reading about that means you probably started to practice!) or use exercisers, like Ben Wa balls or Kegel beads.
Doing Kegels can cause more harm than good for some people
For many people, doing Kegels or using Ben Wa balls or similar tools cause more issues. Generally speaking, you want to avoid tightening exercises if you have any of the following:
- Pelvic pain
- Rectal pain
- Sexual pain (e.g. vaginismus, vulvodynia, dyspareunia, vulvar vestibulitis)
- Low back pain
- Abdominal diastasis
- Core weakness
If that is you, I am not saying that you should never do Kegels or use Ben Wa balls. Instead, check-in with a pelvic floor physical therapist. They will assess your pelvic tone (how tense your pelvic floor muscles are) and determine a course of care that may or may not include strengthening—but most likely won’t start with it.
Tight muscles are not strong muscles
Strengthening a muscle that’s tight or not activating well only leads to issues like trigger points. Think about a knot in your back or a charley horse in your calf.
Is that muscle strong when its knotted up? Nope. It sure is tight and painful though!
The same thing can happen in your pelvic floor and often does. We know that stress, trauma, and tension live in our bodies. They tend to take up residence in areas directly impacted, weak, or disconnected. The pelvic floor is one of these key spots.
Many need to focus on relaxing rather than strengthening, at least to start
If you are worried about tension, I always recommend connecting with a pelvic floor physical therapist to properly assess you and create a personalised plan of care.
Here are a few other great places to begin relaxing your pelvic floor muscles:
- 360 degree breathing. Move into a comfortable and supported upright seated posture. If you have a theraband, wrap it around your waist. If not, place your hands on either side of your waist. On each inhale, let yourself expand into the band or your hands in all directions, focusing on your side and back ribs. As you exhale, feel your sides and backs move back in. You may be able to feel your pelvic floor moving in sync with your diagraphm (down and out on the inhale, up and in on the exhale) but it’s okay if you don’t—that can take time. It may take some time to feel this, especially the pelvic floor. Thankfully, visualizing the movement activates a portion of the correct muscles.
- Modified happy baby pose. While here, think about sending the breath down into you pelvic floor. You may feel subtle movement of expansion of your vagina, perineum, and anus as you do this.
- Dilators and/or pelvic wands. We adore the ones from Intimate Rose as they come with detailed instructions written by a pelvic floor physical therapist. They’re made of 100% silicone as well and so thoughtfully designed to not increase pain or discomfort during use.
- At-home biofeedback. The gold standard of Kegel training, biofeedback helps you visualise the contraction and relaxation of your pelvic floor. The Elvie Pelvic Floor Trainer* was created in partnership with pelvic floor physios and comes with a variety of programs to follow, including ones focused on relaxation. Having tried several of the options out there, this is the only one I recommend due to its size, shape, and materials as well as the ability to track your pgoress in real time. It was a life-saver for me at the start of COVID when medical centers were closed.
*Typically I do not recommend buying any sex products from Amazon; however, in this case its an official brand partner of Elvie and I know the product you’re buying through this link is authentic and new.
If you’re ready to strengthen, do not start with kegel balls
When it comes to Kegel trainers, best practices are the opposite of regular weights: bigger is better.
Ben Wa balls are heavy and small. They tend to fall out at inopportune moments\, pop up next to your cervix, or come out when you pee and roll just far enough back in the toilet that you need to shower after retrieving them.
Having experienced all of these, I cannot recommend it less.
Instead, start with kegel balls
Because kegel beads are wider and lighter, they give the muscles of your vagina more surface area to contract around and less weight to fight with gravity.
These are our favorite. They’re made of body-safe, hard plastic and come with a whole training set. The string to remove them is nylon, not plastic, so it doesn’t ricochet the ball back to smack your bits when you pull them out
How to use kegel balls
- Start with a bigger, lighter ball. Yes I’m repeating this rule!
- Insertion: put a few drops of lube (see our faves here) on the ball and your fingers and then insert them into your vagina. Never stick them in your butt. They will get sucked up and cause problems that require a trip to the ER you’d probably rather not take.
- Stand up. The only ways the muscles work is if they’re fighting gravity. Try vacuuming, washing the dishes, changing the sheets, doing laundry. Anything that has you upright for a bit.
- Test them on a day you stay home. You’ll learn how long you can wear them before the muscles fatigue. You’ll know this happens because you’ll feel the bead move closer to the vaginal opening—or it’ll fall out. Trust me when I say it’s better for this to happen in your living room than the checkout line at Whole Foods!
- If they fall right out when you stand up, that’s OK. I recommend connecting with a pelvic floor physical therapist ASAP. In the meantime, try this. Lying on your back, insert the lightest bead. At this point you can practice pulsing around it, with special attention to relaxing fully. Alternatively, you can practice gently pulling on the string, as if you were going to pull it out, and tightening the muscles to prevent it from being pulled out.
- If you go out with them inserted, bring a clean plastic baggie with you so you can pop them out if needed.
- Remove them just like you would a tampon. It may be easier if you exhale and/or push down like you are peeing while removing them.
- Wash with a gentle soap and water or a toy cleanser like this. Once every few wears, sterilize them by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them (do not boil them in the pan) for a few minutes.
Bonus sexpert tip: once you’re comfortable, use the elliptical while wearing them. It’ll change your life.
Like any group of muscles, taking care of your pelvic floor requires both strengthening and rest
How we approach it may be different, but at the end of the day, the pelvic floor muscles are just that: muscles. Partnering with a knowledgeable expert is your best bet, but these tips will get you started.
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