Many women experience weakened pelvic floor muscles as they age, which can lead to a number of issues known generally as pelvic floor dysfunction.
But some women also suffer from tight pelvic muscles, and in extreme cases a syndrome known as hypertonic pelvic floor. This is when the muscles in your lower pelvis are in a state of constant contraction or spasm, lasting for a temporary time or remaining constant.1
Whether your muscles are tight or you have been diagnosed with hypertonic pelvic floor, here’s how to relax your pelvic floor muscles, and your whole body.
Pelvic Floor Tension
Your pelvic floor consists of the muscles and ligaments that support your pelvic organs in a hammock-like structure. The pelvic floor holds your bladder, bowel, and uterus in place, helps you control your bladder and bowel, and plays a role in sex.2
Many women experience pelvic floor dysfunction caused by strain on the pelvic muscles, such as prolapse and incontinence. These can be a result of childbirth, obesity, chronic constipation, straining when you go to the bathroom, continuous heavy lifting, and other injuries that can weaken the pelvic floor.2
But having a pelvic floor that is too tense can also create problems, including incontinence, trouble emptying your bladder, and even pain during sex.2 We are often told we need to perform Kegel exercises, squeezing and tightening our pelvic floor muscles, but in the case of tight muscles, this can be the wrong advice.3
Hypertonic pelvic floor muscles, also known as overactive pelvic floor muscles, is a condition where there may be increased tension at rest, increased voluntary or involuntary contractions, or a decreased ability to fully relax your pelvic floor muscles.3
Relaxing Your Pelvic Floor
If you’re having issues with tight pelvic floor muscles, it’s important to avoid constipation and straining.1 But pelvic floor tension can be helped by some simple exercises to relax the pelvic floor muscles. Here’s one example of a diaphragmatic breathing exercise that can relax your pelvic floor muscles and your whole body:2
- Place one hand on your chest and another hand on your belly, just below your rib cage. Use the hand on your belly to know if you’re using your diaphragm correctly, since it should rise and fall as you breathe.
- Count to three as you take a deep breath in. This relaxes your pelvic floor.
- Count to four as you exhale, which returns your pelvic floor to its resting state.
- Practice this breathing exercise for 5-10 minutes each day.
You can also practice diaphragmatic breathing in conjunction with adductor stretching. In this instance, you lie on your back with the soles of your feet together and knees out to the sides. If you aren’t relaxed, and instead feel a pulling along your inner thighs or in your pubic bones, place pillows under your knees for support.2
Another suggested exercise is called a table stretch:3
- Place your hands on the wall, with your feet just a little wider than your hips and your toes slightly turned in. If your hamstrings are tight, slightly bend your knees.
- Think of rolling your sit bones upwards and feel them stretch wide.
- Breathe into your pelvic floor for 60 seconds.
Performing relaxing yoga stretches like child’s pose, happy baby, or a yogi squat in conjunction with deep breathing can also help your pelvic floor muscles and your whole body relax. Those who practice mindfulness may also find it aids with relaxation. Journaling is another option; although it may not help with physical symptoms, positive emotional writing has been found to be beneficial for alleviating stress and anxiety.4
Re-Training Your Muscles
For some people suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction, treatment plans include retraining the pelvic floor muscles. This program is designed to help those with impaired ability to relax and coordinate the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles that control the functions of the bowel and bladder.5
At the Mayo Clinic, for instance, a program using biofeedback training and behavior modification helps patients identify the sensations associated with relaxation and tension, isolate the pelvic floor from other muscle groups, and identify strategies to relax.5 This type of treatment is not one you would perform at home, so it’s important to first be diagnosed for your condition.
Ask a Doctor
If you’re suffering from tight pelvic floor muscles, or you suspect you have hypertonic pelvic floor condition, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you and obtain a proper diagnosis. A doctor can help with a treatment, plan, or refer you to a physical therapist who can help determine the proper exercises for your pelvic floor.2