It was the worst a$$ cramp of my life

The things I do for my patients. I decided on a whim, to try out one of those newfangled electromagnetic pelvic floor chairs last year at the World Physiotherapy Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, where I was representing the US as a Delegate.

It seemed harmless enough.

The vendor asked me in a thick European accent to wait a few moments for a demonstration. He was assisting 2 men trying one of the features of the chair; gauging a baseline voluntary pelvic floor contraction.  These two dudes were having a Kegel contest to see who’s pelvic floor could contract the most. 
I can’t make this stuff up. 

The demo chair was pretty self explanatory; sit down, turn it on & hang out. Except for a few key points & principles.

  • You’re sitting on a ring with an opening in the center. The electromagnetic waves aren’t magic- they can’t skip some muscle layers & go right to the pelvic floor; I definitely noticed my gluteal (aka butt) muscles getting tingly
  • We never use our pelvic floor muscles at 100% capacity

Audience participation time!

  • Stand up.
  • Squeeze your pelvic floor as hard as you can.
  • Now, try to breathe.
  • Also try to walk.
  • You can’t do either if you’re contracting your muscles as hard as you can..  Maximum effort isn’t functional.

(OK, demo over!)

Everything old is new again.  
This chair wasn’t a new idea.  Leveraging the idea that kegels fix everything isn’t a new idea.  Both are relics of the 80’s & before.  There’s a small place with select patients for straight forward maximum effort training & I do use internal electric stimulation in cases where I’m having a heck of a time getting someone to find those muscles…about once a year…if I”m lucky.  

Full disclosure, maximum kegels & kegel chairs were standard of treatment about 20 years ago when I first started as a pelvic PT…I’d like to think we’ve evolved a bit since then.

Back to our list. 

  • If you’ve spent anytime listening to me talk about the pelvic floor, more often than not, we’re focusing on pelvic floor coordination & getting it to relax (which is why so many people who try kegels get exasperated because they don’t work for what THEIR problem is.) Women (& men) guilt themselves that they must not be doing the kegel correctly. The all-knowing physical therapist is more than happy to demonstrate your inability to perform the contraction, but the fact still remains;  the kegel wasn’t the issue (or the solution to the problem ) in the first place.

It’s hard to do a kegel when you’re muscles are overactive

Translation: the muscles are already “on” & need to go back to baseline & THEN be retrained how to go back “on” when they’re needed in the quantity that’s needed.
PT’s tend to forget that one too.

Knowing this, sitting on a chair who’s sole goal is to maximally contract your pelvic floor is like the Bad Idea Bears in the Broadway play, Avenue Q; nothing good is going to come of it.

Back to the a$$ cramp.

I stayed a few minutes experiencing this awfulness & slowly realized my entire bottom was getting more than tingly (not in a good way & nowhere near my pelvic floor, might I add). It was tightening, cramping & I knew immediately I needed to get off the chair ASAP. I hit what I only can assume was the “abort” button (what I really needed was an eject) I slowly limped off the chair. I didn’t wait for the product rep (yes, those guys were still trying to figure out who had the best kegel…STILL not making this up.) Unfortunately, our plans for the rest of the day were to walk around Geneva, which I still did, but “walking” was a kind term for it.

I swore in that moment, in the name of science, I’d share my story so no one had to experience the bottom vice grip that kept me hobbling for days after.

The moral of the story…

What sounds too good to be true probably is. When the pretty blond sharing “her story” on Instagram (not making that one up either- a friend sent me the video this morning!) tries to explain how the chair “fixes your floor & your core,” in the keitchiest rhyming way possible; run away. It’s just not that simple.

Some good things came out of the 80s’: 

The updated reboot of the Karate Kid, Cobra Kai on Netflix. Mom jeans (they make so much more sense now that I’m a mom.) Fanny packs (my hand sanitizer is never more than a quick zip away!)

This chair shouldn’t be back & I hope that my sacrifice for you, in the name of science, keeps your curiosity at bay.
Stay safe & stay off the chair!

PS Interested in an actual way to get your glutes stronger & less flat (that’s a mom thing too!?!), check out this IG post on exercises to reverse the mom bottom, without the chair!

PPS  Want to know why your glutes got flat in the first place after baby?  Check this post out too!

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