Medical History

Today in Sex History: January 31st – The London Lock Hospital Opens

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The London Lock Hospital, which opened today in 1747, is known as the first VD clinic.

Lock was not a person’s name but a hold over from lock hospitals, also known at lazar hospitals, which housed those who suffered from leprosy. The first hospital for leprosy to use the Lock name, Southwark Lock Hospital, opened in the 12th century. The term “lock” doesn’t have a concrete definition. Some say it referred to the French word, la loque, for the rags or strips of linen used to cover afflicted areas of the leper’s body. Another possible origin is from an early Anglo-Saxon word, loc, that means “that by which anything is closed, an enclosed place, enclosure, fold.

Leprosy was on the decline by the 17th century, so there wasn’t much use for the lazar/lock hospital system anymore. Sexually transmitted infection was a much bigger problem. Several lazar hospitals, such the Southwark Lock Hospital and the Kingsland Lock Hospital, switched to treating syphilis and gonorrhea. Surgeon William Bromfeild (The correct spelling of his surname, not Bromfield) saw the need for a hospital in London dedicated to the treatment of venereal disease. He formed a committee and started work on The London Lock Hospital. They purchased a house near Hyde Park Corner to convert into the new hospital.

London Lock Hospital opened on January 31st with 30 beds, a staff of surgeons, physicians, nurses, apothecaries, a chaplain, and Bromfeild as a staff surgeon. The hospital treated 300 people in the first year. Unfortunately, the treatment of sexually transmitted infections used by the hospital was ineffectual. Mercury in a variety of forms was the most common treatment. It never worked and came with horrible side effects like tooth loss, increased sweating and salivation, bone loss, gum ulcers, and neurological damage. Mercury was more likely to kill you than cure you.

The National Health Service took over the London Lock Hospital in 1948, then closed it in 1952.

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Arnold Kegel: The Man Behind the Movement

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Arnold Henry Kegel, M.D. Photo by Gladser Studio.

Arnold Henry Kegel, M.D. Photo by Gladser Studio.

One of the most helpful muscle toning workouts doesn’t even require weights, or even an energetically colored spandex workout outfit. You can do it in your car, waiting in line, while watching your favorite TV show, or just about anywhere. It benefits both men and women. If you’re a woman of a certain age and/or have had children, you are indebted to the person who thought of these little low intensity muscle tighteners. If it weren’t for those regular Kegel exercises you’d probably be dreading every sneeze, cough and belly laugh. It’s one thing to “laugh so hard you pee your pants,” but it’s another thing entirely to pee because a sneeze snuck up on you. I’ve had those, and I’ve had coughing fits that required a mini wardrobe change. My husband knows what the embarrassed and tense looking pause is after I laugh, cough or sneeze. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often thanks to Arnold Kegel.

Arnold Kegel, an American gynecologist, was an assistant professor of gynecology at University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. He discovered that incontinence and prolapse of the uterus, especially after childbirth, was the result of a weakened pelvic floor muscle. Up until this time, the only way doctors could help was with surgery to tighten the vaginal canal. Unfortunately, the surgery rarely lasted with symptoms reappearing a short time later. Kegel did an 18 years study to find a reliable way to help women strengthen the pelvic floor. He found through dissecting cadavers that the Pubococcygeus muscle, which runs from the pubic bone to the tailbone, was usually in a severe state of atrophy rendering it nearly incapable of performing its function. They looked at dissections, surgeries, even animal experiments and found PC muscle strength to be vital and that this muscle was important to nearly every area of the pelvis including the urethra, vagina, and rectum. He had to find a nonsurgical way to strengthen the muscle since surgery from both above and below didn’t give access to the muscle nor did surgery have lasting effects.

Kegel developed a way to measure the strength of the pelvic floor muscles. The Perineometer measured vaginal air pressure to determine the strength of the muscle. He developed ways of squeezing the pelvic floor muscles as a form of exercise for the PC muscle. Using the perineometer he could tell if his exercises were having any effect. The results of his study were published in 1948 as “The nonsurgical treatment of genital relaxation; use of the perineometer as an aid in restoring anatomic and functional structure.” in the Annals of Western Medicine and Surgery. Kegel mentions in his study that the pelvic floor can regain physiologic tension and is able to recover function after years of disuse and partial atrophy. His exercises not only helped with incontinence and genital prolapse but also provided an unsuspected bonus, it improved sexual pleasure especially after childbirth.

Today we have electromyography perineometers that measure electrical activity in the muscle rather than air pressure. Kegel exercises are highly recommended today for help not only for incontinence but also to help your sex life. It can help with better orgasms post childbirth and help post-menopausal women increase the blood flow to help with the loss of elasticity and increase natural lubrication. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure you’re exercising the right muscle. Even in Kegel’s day he found that some women were tightening their abdominal muscles or their rectum instead of their PC muscle. Much has been learned since those early days of Arnold’s research. We now have special sex toys to help strengthen the PC muscle but what still remains effective are those basic muscle-tightening techniques from nearly 70 years ago. Thanks, Arnold!

 

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