By GREGORY ZELLER // It’s not easy to discuss. Even Caryn Horsley hesitates over some of the intimate details.
But incontinence is familiar to many Americans – 13 million of them, according to WebMD, with the loss of bladder control twice as prevalent among women.
Horsley believes she has a subtle and graceful solution, and she’s happy to discuss it, even if the subject matter sometimes gives her or her audience pause.
A self-described “jack of all trades” whose long professional run extended from medical assistant to paralegal to personal trainer, Horsley has spent the last several years inventing and patenting the Inner Peace device, a small “muscle locator and Kegel motivator” that encourages Kegel exercise to strengthen pelvic floor muscles – the key, according to the inventor, to reducing female incontinence.
Pelvic floor exercise, also known as Kegel exercise, involves repeated contracting and relaxing of the muscles forming the pelvic floor. Several tools exist to help exercise the “Kegel muscles” – they’re named for mid-20th century gynecologist Arnold Kegel – though medical reviews have been mixed.
Horsley’s innovation is made of medical-grade silicone and, when combined with an exercise regimen of as little as 10 minutes – and up to a maximum of 30 – four times a week, offers results within 14 days.
Strengthening pelvic muscles is “the first line of defense for women who want to improve, cure or prevent incontinence,” according to Horsley. And finding time to exercise is no worry – the insertable device is ultra-discreet, meaning you can use it “anywhere, at any time,” she said.
“With a lot of products on the market, you have to lock yourself in the bedroom and do them lying down,” Horsley added. “We’re in a multitasking world where we need to accomplish several things at once. This allows you to do your Kegels on the run – while you’re doing yoga or Pilates, while you’re at work, while you’re watching your children.”
Therein lies one of the unspoken truths of female incontinence: Like Horsley’s weapon against it, it strikes anywhere, anytime. Common after pregnancies and childbirth, incontinence can be triggered by several factors at virtually any life stage. Weight, stress, menopause and various surgeries all challenge the structure of the female urinary tract.
And then there’s modesty.
“They’re embarrassed,” Horsley said. “They think it’s just something you deal with, with pads and diapers.”
Pelvic muscles, Horsley noted, like other muscles, must be exercised and strengthened. And the results of the device exceed incontinence control, according to its inventor, who cites improved circulation, healthier pelvic tissue and better sex.
“This improves [incontinence] so much, you might not need the pads anymore,” Horsley said. “You can start traveling further, because you don’t need a bathroom all the time. And a lot of women stop exercising because of incontinence … this is a return to inner and outer health.
“There’s a lot of things women don’t understand about saving their pelvic floor,” she added. “They don’t realize how important it is.”
The Bellport resident is a breast cancer survivor, and while that does factor into the Inner Peace origin story, Horsley’s own incontinence issues don’t involve cancer or chemotherapy.
She’s endured incontinence most of her life, and was always dissatisfied with the available products and treatments. Some had “pumps hanging outside your body,” Horsley lamented, others were weighted, others “looked like sex toys.”
“I saw what was needed,” she said. “Something simple and discreet. Something easy to insert and remove, easy to clean, something without all the bells and whistles. Much simpler, more operational.”
It was during her chemotherapy that she decided to do something about it – mostly, because she finally had the time.
“I certainly wasn’t going to just sit in bed,” she said. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing my exercises. I took the time to do something that meant something to me.”
The design phase extended well beyond her cancer convalescence. Tinkering straight through, Horsley landed a design patent in 2010 and a utility patent in 2015; she now has a methods patent pending. Several earlier patent applications were denied – mostly for language reasons, she noted – but the inventor “just kept applying” and in 2014 managed to secure critical FDA approval as well.
That allowed her to commercialize Inner Peace. First stop: a women’s wellness conference in Connecticut, where Horsley manned her first trade show booth. It was an eye-opener: Not only did Horsley learn important lessons about booth location and public speaking, she learned the biggest challenge to Inner Peace may come from its target market.
“I noticed a lot of women were afraid to talk about their bodies,” she said. “It also surprised me, the number of women who thought Kegel exercises had something to do with sex or being married. They didn’t realized this was about their overall health.”
Horsley will be back at it in September when she booths up at the Gaia’s Essence Women’s Wellness Conference at the Islandia Marriott. With the patents in hand and the FDA in her corner, she’s “just getting started” on marketing – and on funding Inner Peace’s commercialization program.
“Not having a business background, I’m looking at the best way to attack,” she said. “Investments are definitely a possibility.”
Her growth plan is a little more solid: Horsley wants to bring her message to health food stores, libraries, hospitals and physicians’ offices. She’s optimizing her website for search engines and looking for speaking engagements that will facilitate “this conversation I need to have with women.”
“It’s important for women considering pregnancy, women who are candidates for pelvic surgery and post-menopausal women,” she said. “Hormonally, even the loss of estrogen causes pelvic muscles to weaken.
“There’s a market for this, among many different populations,” Horsley added. “Any woman can use this to improve her overall health.”