Elvie: The fitbit for your bits
Elvie: Your most personal trainer
I’ve been sent a sample of ‘Elvie’ to try, and to give feedback to the manufacturer. Here’s what I think:
Elvie is a device that you insert inside your vagina to give you feedback on your pelvic floor performance, via an app on your smart phone or device. TBH, I didn’t have high hopes. There are several other similar products on the market, some of which are bulky and complicated to use. Plus, it bothers me that the products focus purely on the pelvic floor, when we know that the pelvic floor muscles, like any other muscle in the body, never work in isolation.
On receiving Elvie, I was pleasantly surprised. The packaging was sleek and modern, without any Pink in sight. Elvie is a small, blue, pea shape pod with a little tail. It is covered in silicon and doesn’t look at all intimidating like other products I’ve seen. Elvie comes with a small, easy to follow instruction booklet and a ‘cover’ that essentially makes Elvie bigger if needed.
The app is easy to download and Elvie is easy to charge and insert. It connected to the app quickly and I was instructed, via the booklet (with pretty substandard instructions) to squeeze my pelvic floor. As I squeezed, a little orange gem on the screen lifted, and as I relaxed, it dropped. It then took me through a series of exercises where I had to lift the gem above a line on the screen and hold it there. Then I had to squeeze as strongly as possible and hit a target at the top of the screen. Then the most challenging part for me: quick pulses/contractions aiming to hit targets that appeared in fast succession on the screen.
I tried the exercises in lying, sitting and standing, all with success. The connection with the app dropped out briefly in sitting, but re-connected quickly. The app gave pelvic floor feedback with functional tasks like squatting, walking and hopping, with great success. Before I knew it, I had performed 5 minutes of pelvic floor muscle training, without even realizing, and had (dare I say it) fun whilst doing it! Plus, my pelvic floor was definitely fatigued and I felt I had worked much harder than when I do pelvic floor exercises myself.
The graphics and usability of the app are fantastic. I am a bit of a techtard sometimes and I had no issues with the set up or execution of the programme
The app demands attention to task. Pelvic floor exercises done properly demand sole attention. Sitting at the traffic lights and doing them is not particularly helpful. I found I had dedicated 5 minutes to my exercises, worked these muscles hard, and had not been distracted by life around me.
It makes pelvic floor exercises entertaining. We all know pelvic floor exercises are boring right? And this is the main excuse people give me if they haven’t been doing them. This device provides motivation and feedback, and is slightly addictive in terms of wanting to beat your last score.
It’s easy to insert. It is covered with smooth silicon, and is about the size of a super tampon. However, those people with overactive pelvic floors may find it difficult to insert. It’s also easy to take out, much like a tampon.
I really like that you can use Elvie in lying, sitting and standing postures, and also during functional tasks and exercises like squats (for people wanting to get back to resistance training) and hops (for people wanting to get back to high impact exercise like running), and lifting (for new mums wanting to be able to lift their baby without issues like urine leakage or prolapse symptoms)
I know that I often err on the side of overactive pelvic floor muscles (a spasm or inability to completely let go), and I found the feedback on the screen particularly helpful in recognizing if I hadn’t fully let go.
The description on how to contract your pelvic floor is substandard and brief. We know that 50% of women cannot contract their pelvic floor muscles correctly, if reading the instructions off a pamphlet. Therefore, women need assessment from a pelvic floor physio first, before using it. If a women thinks she is contracting her pelvic floor, but is actually bearing down, and continues with her exercises, she will probably end up with worsening pelvic floor function and symptoms. I would suggest that everyone who uses a device like this, is checked by a pelvic floor physio first, and uses it with the physio assessing too.
One if the biggest issues pelvic floor physios have with devices like this is that sometimes they pick up pressure as a positive contraction, when it could be that the person is actually bearing down, or straining using their abdomen, essentially giving the user a ‘false positive’ result. This can be particularly dangerous if done repetitively and may cause the pelvic floor muscles to actually become weaker or a prolapse to worsen. Elvie supposedly has some sort of technology to sense if the user is bearing down. I attempted bearing down with Elvie inserted, and it gave me a weak positive contraction result; however, I may have actually been contracting my pelvic floor whilst bearing down. This was difficult to ascertain and more research is needed. I do believe there is a trial being performed by a pelvic floor physio at the moment, to see whether the Elvie provides false positive results with bearing down, and I await the results eagerly.
I really, really wish that there was a way that the exercise dosage could be individualized. At the moment, the app uses pre-set exercise programmes. However, pelvic floor exercises need to be individualized to each person’s abilities to be effective. I hope that this feature is coming in the future, even if it’s only health professionals that have access to this feature, to enable them to prescribe appropriate dosage to each of their patients.
As mentioned earlier, this device only gives feedback on the pelvic floor muscles, not the gluts, abdominals, breathe and posture, all of which need to working optimally, in synchronicity with each other for optimum function.
Summary: It is pricey (around NZ$300) but, you can’t really put a price on not wetting your pants every time you laugh right?! I think it would be great for anyone who likes techy things, is a visual learner, and needs some motivation to do pelvic floor exercises. It should be used as a tool in our rehab toolbox, not as a solo treatment. The user must have an assessment from a pelvic floor physio before using it, and taught functional/whole body exercises to get the most out of their pelvic floor.
More info at: www.elvie.com
– the vagina physio