Do you need an electrical stimulation probe for either the vagina and anus? These are used with pelvic floor electrical stimulation machines and also biofeedback devices. I hope I can help you decide which one would best suit your needs.
This is one of the topics Kegel8 founder, Stephanie Taylor, asked me about in some video Q & A sessions about the Kegel8 Ultra 20 machine. She is passionate about helping their customers get value and success from a purchase.
IN THIS VIDEO:
- The different shapes and sizes
- Which type to use if you have a nickel allergy.
- Electrodes designed for rehab of the anal sphincter
Watch here (or read the adapted transcript below). In this video we are discussing the vaginal and anal electrodes available to use with a machine called a Kegel8 Ultra 20 V2 Electronic Pelvic Floor Toner. Other models of machine in the Kegel8 range and others available elsewhere are very similar. The electrodes we discuss all have “pigtail” connectors and will be compatible with most machines. The principles are the same for all electrical stimulation machines. Even if you don’t have a Kegel8 you might find this video helpful to understand how your own-brand of machine and electrode works too.
Q: can you tell us a bit about the different probes and electrodes that the Kegel8 uses and how women might find a different probe would be better for them.
Can you see how similar they all are? They are all trying to do the same thing. Their job is to deliver the electrical current as close to the belly of the muscle as possible. This current will stimulate the nerves that make the pelvic floor muscles work. They conduct the electricity to your muscles through the metal bars, side to side. They all look quite similar because the shape of the vagina as you go in goes wider rather than higher and the belly of the muscles is mainly on the sides.
Periform was the first one designed (by a physiotherapist), when there was a move from very big long probes to smaller ones, about 30 years ago.
It’s simple, the bars are on the side. I like that it is easy to tell you have it the right way up. It’s the one you usually get form the hospital as it is the cheapest one. The cables should be coming up the top or from the bottom, not side to side. It has a nice hook to help put it in and out which is nice if your hands struggle to hold things. They left a hole in the top to keep it light. But if you have a prolapse of the anterior or posterior vaginal wall some people find it can pinch a bit when taking it out. There are other very similar probes with a filled in middle available.
You can tell which way up to put it in by feeling the hilt to have a smooth surface up and groove bits to the side. It has a nice hilt so that you can tell if it is in the right distance inside. Something to notice here is that the bars are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is a great conductor but contains a little nickel. So if you know, from jewellery, that you have a nickel allergy this might not suit you.
The Kegel8 Glide Gold has been designed to tick all the boxes. It has gold plated electrodes, which are less allergic, and would be your choice if you had a nickel allergy. The middle is filled in but is still light weight. It has a flatter structure, so that you could put it more comfortably under a prolapse, and its a bit less bulky than the others.
This Kegel8 Super Slim probe is to use for stimulation of the anal sphincter through the back passage. So for someone with faecal incontinence or if you had a 3rd or 4th degree ter. When you know that the anal sphincter needs some rehabilitation as well. It has a hilt that moves so that once you know how far in to put it you have this guide to help you. The bar near the hilt is designed to exercise the anal sphincter, the slightly deeper bar is to stimulate the levator plate (the pelvic floor muscles) further in.
Because it is nice and slim we also sometimes use this if we have someone with a very small vagina, or who has had a lot of pain and feels that the vagina can’t stretch. This is slimmer and friendlier to use for vaginal stimulation. The problem is that it could move about more. You would need to be quite small and keep your knees together. More friendly if you are not sure about the other sizes. It can be used in either vagina or anus whereas you can’t put the Periform or Glide in the back passage as they are the wrong shape.
The Perisize Vaginal Probe has a bar that releases so that you can narrow it to put it in but once it is in then it widens. Very ergonomic, as this is the shape of the vagina – the opening is quite small but then it widens. This probe is good if you don’t feel you are getting enough side to side contact. It is the widest probe.
You will also see that it has more cables. This is because it is acting like two electrodes. Each side is independent of each other. If internally you have one side that is more sensitive or uncomfortable then you might want to have this one on a lower amplitude. With Periszie you can choose the settings for each side separately which you can’t do with the standard probes. It is quite specialist. It might be something your physio guides you towards. Or you have used the basic first and decided you want something wider. It is not needed as a first choice probe.
Q: if someone doesn’t want to use an anal or vaginal probe – what’s the option for them
Stimulation to exercise the muscles
Muscle stimulation to exercise the muscles is best delivered as close as possible to the muscle, where the nerves are. Since the invention of discreet & comfortable vaginal and anal probes, physiotherapists would generally choose this internal method of application as the most effective way to create a contraction of the muscles using stimulation.
However, if you cannot use an internal electrode it would be worth trying a surface application to see if you can activate the muscles, but it can be difficult to truly reach the muscles through the body’s layers of tissues. Before these internal probes were invented, stimulation was delivered using surface electrodes (sticky skin pads). You can put them where the nerve starts (in the spine) so they can be positioned around the sacrum, the very low bit of the spine. It doesn’t matter if they are placed higher, the nerves below will still be affected. You can do this with 2 or 4 surface electrodes. The machines come with instructions about where to put the electrodes. The key thing is that there must be a gap between them. You don’t want the electricity to jump from one pad to another – you want the electricity to go through the body and stimulate the nerves on the way. Leave a gap of an electrode size between the electrodes.
Stimulation for neuromodulation (to calm the bladder or nerves)
There is a type of stimulation for overactive bladder syndrome. This type of stimulation does not exercise the muscles, it rather calms the nerves by sending lots of sensory sensations. Therefore this can successfully be done through the vaginal electrode, or through sacral placed electrodes, or by putting it near your tibial nerve, down by your ankle, or a combination. The choice is about comfort, finding out what works for you and whether you feel your getting some benefit from the stimulation in your chosen place.
Have you tried several different probes to find the best one for you? Please do share your experiences or ask questions below.
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