You’ve no doubt heard about all the benefits that come with doing Kegels. These are exercises that specifically target the pelvic floor. They’re great for resolving urinary incontinence issues and experiencing stronger, more pleasurable orgasms.
Be it as it may, too much of a good thing can cause more harm than good. Enter – overactive pelvic floor muscle or hypertonic pelvic floor. It’s a condition characterized by the inability to relax the pelvic floor muscles. Here’s everything you need to know about the disorder, how it affects your quality of life, as well as how to relax pelvic floor muscle.
What Causes an Overactive Pelvic Floor Muscle
There’s no single defining factor that’s responsible for bringing about the condition. Nonetheless, there are certain activities that can cause these muscles to tighten up. For instance, if you spend extended periods keeping your core muscles engaged without giving them adequate time to relax, there’s a good chance you might develop an overactive pelvic floor muscle.
The same thing applies to individuals that have a history of holding back the urge to urinate or have a bowel movement for long periods. The pelvic floor muscles end up remaining “activated” for too long, causing tension to develop. Do you often feel uneasy using public toilets, often opting to “hold” for hours until you get home? If you answered yes, that might be a contributory factor to developing an overactive pelvic floor.
Effects of a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor
All muscles in the human body are designed to contract and relax. The pelvic floor muscles are no exception. When they are constantly in a tense or contracted state, blood flow to this region is restricted, therefore, causing ischemia. As a result, metabolites build up and set off chemical sensors that send signals to your brain to do something about it. If this fails, the tension and muscle spasms that result are just as painful as those that would occur in any other muscle group.
This can severely impact your quality of life, making it painful to engage in sexual intercourse, insert or remove a tampon, or do gynecological exams like pap smears or routine vaginal exams. An overactive pelvic floor can also contribute to the incomplete emptying of the bladder or bowel. People with the condition may also find it difficult to initiate a urinary flow and may frequently suffer from constipation.
Other symptoms include general pain in the pelvic region, particularly around the hips and lower back. Hypertonic pelvic floor muscles also make it difficult and, in severe cases, almost impossible to achieve vaginal penetration or even have an orgasm.
This form of chronic pain can have a devastating impact on an individual’s psychological wellbeing. Managing it becomes emotionally draining, and anxiety creeps in when your period rolls around, and you know what you’ll have to endure every time you insert and remove your tampon. You experience the same fear when you think about having intercourse with your partner.
Sadly, this fear and anxiety only make the symptoms worse, making it impossible to relax your pelvic floor muscles. It’s a vicious cycle.
How to Relax Pelvic Floor Muscle – Simple Exercises to Do at Home
Many women with an overactive pelvic floor muscle are often unaware that there’s something they can do about it. Others simply choose to put up with it, while others are too embarrassed to seek help for their condition. Some women even falsely believe that their inability to relax their pelvic muscles is linked to something they might be doing wrong.
Remember, the whole reason why you may have a hypertonic pelvic floor muscle in the first place has to do with the inability to “let go” and relax. In extreme cases, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether your pelvic muscles are relaxed even when you believe they are.
While the best thing to do would be to seek help from a physical therapist or medical professional, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Most of these revolve around breathing and stretching exercises designed to help you relax your pelvic floor muscle.
The diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles work in sync with each other. Relaxing the diaphragm also helps relax the pelvic floor. Try the following exercise.
- Place your right hand over your chest and the left one over your belly below your rib cage.
- Take a deep breath in and hold for three seconds, and then exhale for four.
- Repeat the steps above for about 10 minutes every day.
When you breathe in, your pelvic floor muscles relax. When you breathe out, they return to their resting state. To know whether you’re using your diaphragm correctly, you should feel the hand over your belly rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
Pelvic Girdle Stretches
These exercises are also great for practicing diaphragmatic breathing to relax your pelvic floor muscle.
Happy Baby Pose
- Lie on your back and bring your knees up toward your chest. Keep them wide apart.
- Raise your feet such that your ankles are raised above your knees. Support your legs with your arms if you need to.
- Hold this position and gently rock from side to side without toppling over.
- Do this for 10 minutes every day.
- Get on your hands and knees, and then spread your knees as far apart as you can and keep your big toes touching.
- Stretch out your arms on the floor in front of you and move forward until your forehead touches the ground.
- Hold this stretched-out position for as long as you can.
- Lie flat on your back and bring your feet toward you.
- Spread your knees out to the sides and bring the soles of your feet together. You can add a pillow on each side of your leg for extra support.
- Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Lie flat on your back and bend your knees toward your chest.
- Place your right ankle on your left knee to form the figure “4.”
- Pull your left thigh toward your chest. You should feel the outside of your right hip stretching.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch to the other side.
- Repeat this 5-10 times for each side.
Get Expert Help
There you have it – how to relax your pelvic floor muscles. If your symptoms don’t improve and you still have an overactive pelvic floor muscle despite your best efforts, get in touch to book with one of our pelvic physiotherapists today.