| Caroline Knight
There is a lot of talk out there about strengthening pelvic floor muscles (kegel exercises), and with good reason. Many women have issues due to loose pelvic floor muscles, but there are also plenty of women struggling with a tight pelvic floor too. In fact, it’s possible for the pelvic floor to get so tight that the muscles actually end up weakening, since they’re always working too hard. Muscle constriction is not only uncomfortable – it’s exhausting! So how do you relax your pelvic floor muscles? It’s a good question. Fortunately we have some answers for you.
Firstly, it’s important to note that kegel exercises will perhaps do more harm than good if the muscles are weakened due to excessive constriction. Constriction can happen in the pelvic joints (sacroiliac and pubic symphysis), and the muscles of the groin, abdomen and lower back. It can also occur in the hamstrings, buttocks, and iliotibial band.
This article will take a look at signs of a tight pelvic floor, how you can relax it, and what to do when you need further help:
Signs you need to relax your pelvic floor muscles
Your body will always let you know if things aren’t working right, and muscles are usually the first to complain! Here’s what you need to look out for:
- Chronic/persistent pelvic pain
- Sudden and frequent urges to pee (even with a relatively empty bladder)
- Urine doesn’t start flowing easily
- The feeling that you haven’t fully emptied your bladder
- Pain in the coccyx (tailbone)
- Dyspareunia (painful sex)
Your pelvic floor muscles regulate continence and help to support the pelvis and lower back. When the muscles around the core are weak or dysfunctional, the rest of your pelvic floor muscles will have to overcompensate for this dysfunction. Unfortunately those muscles may then become dysfunctional too!
How can you relax your pelvic floor muscles?
We recommend ruling out any major issues by checking in with your Doctor first. If it seems that there are no underlying medical conditions to be dealt with, you can set about relaxing your pelvic floor by doing a range of pelvic floor stretches and breathing techniques:
Abdominal breathing means simply deep breathing and directing the breath to the abdomen. Here’s how:
- Lie on your back with bent knees. Put one hand on the chest and the other on the abdomen
- Deeply inhale while picturing your abdomen inflating like a balloon. If done right, the top hand stays still and the lower hand rises
- Move your breath downward while lowering your pelvic floor region, with the intention of allowing it to relax and open up
- Don’t pause between breaths: instead, allow one breath to move smoothly into the next
- Exhale slowly and gently until all air is released, first from the ribs and finally from the pelvic floor
Both your in and out breaths should be held for at least 3 seconds. Repeating this for 5 minutes every day should really help you to relax your pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor muscles stretches
There are various stretches you can do to relax the pelvic floor. Such exercises help to stretch out the muscles of the abdomen, thighs and buttocks. You will find most of them in yin-style yoga classes too, which is something you might want to consider taking up if you haven’t already!
Since we already have a section on pelvic floor stretches, we’ll direct you to that for full descriptions of the exercises (and images for you to check your positioning against). The page will take you through easy stretches to relax your pelvic floor, including child’s pose, cobra pose, happy baby pose and more. These are all aimed at stretching out the abdomen, hips, lower back and thighs, and you should get a great deal of relief from them.
What to do when your pelvic floor won’t relax
If you’ve tried the above strategies and still can’t relax your pelvic floor muscles fully, it might be time to see a pelvic floor physical therapist. Pelvic floor therapy has many benefits, and as you’ll be in the hands of a professional they’ll be able to locate the problem areas and causes. They’ll also be able to use a range of techniques to help you relax the tight muscles.
The bottom line is that a healthy pelvic floor sometimes requires daily discipline to keep things functioning as they should be. We women often have crazy schedules, personal juggling acts and fluctuating stress levels… and unfortunately the pelvic floor is one area of the body that will respond negatively to this. However, there is always a solution to help you relax your pelvic floor muscles - we hope you found it here!
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