| Caroline Knight
Most of us know well that muscle spasms in any part of the body are at best annoying, and at worst painful. For example, neck or shoulder spasms not only hurt a lot; they can also create tension headaches, but these can be eased by massage. Muscles spasms in the pelvic area are another matter entirely, since it isn’t always easy to access the area and manipulate the muscles. Spasms in this area can lead to genital pain and lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).
The pelvic floor is a complex area consisting of layers of muscle and other tissues. The muscular layers stretch across from the pubic bone to the tailbone. In females, the pelvic floor muscles support the womb, bowel and bladder. If you’re wondering whether pelvic floor muscle spasms are the reason for your discomfort, read on for more information and treatment options…
What do pelvic muscle spasms feel like?
When your pelvic floor muscles spasm, it can feel like tight bands of muscle. If you’ve ever had a massage you will remember what trigger points feel like – small, tough knots under the skin that are painful to the touch. When pressed firmly, it hurts but they may then release, providing relief soon after.
The symptoms of pelvic-floor muscle spasms generally feel like this:
- Pain or pressure in the vagina or rectum
- Frequent urges to urinate (or pain when urinating)
- Obvious muscle spasms (similar sensation to other areas in the body)
- Dysfunction in the bowel
- A ‘heavy’ feeling in the pelvic area
If you have muscle spasms in the pelvis, you may find that you also experience interstitial cystitis or dyspareunia (painful sex). In men, there is a possibility of experiencing pain after ejaculation, or erectile dysfunction.
What causes pelvic muscle spasms?
Generally the cause will be a weakened pelvic floor. This might happen due to the following:
- Childbirth (risk increases with number of births)
- Lifting heavy objects
- Straining from constipation
- Weakness due to injury
- Connective tissue disorder
Levator syndrome is another possible cause. It is the name for abnormal spasms of pelvic floor muscles in the rectum (the levator ani muscle). Sometimes the cause of this is unknown, but the spasms often happen after a bowel movement and can worsen when seated or laying down.
This type of pelvic floor muscle spasm usually results in a feeling of pressure or dull, aching sensations high up in the rectum. The pain may occur and pass quickly, or go on for hours at a time.
What can you do to relax the pelvic floor muscles?
Some of the main treatments to relieve pelvic muscle spasms are pelvic floor physical therapy, which includes myofascial release, improving posture and pelvic floor muscle stretching. In this instance, the aim is to relax the muscles rather than strengthen them.
When experiencing spasms, it is also a good idea to do some breathing exercises, as follows:
- Lay down on your back with bent knees
- While inhaling, imagine the abdomen filling with air
- Relax the pelvic floor by moving the breath downward and lowering the pelvic floor
- Repeat the process without pausing between breaths
In the case of levator syndrome, treatment consists of retraining the pelvic muscles and nervous system. The aim is to calm the pelvic floor area and minimize arousal of the nervous system at the same time. This may be done through pelvic floor physical therapy, and if so will include biofeedback and daily relaxation techniques.
You may also want to consider using pelvic wands at home if you can access the muscles that are spasming, since these can put pressure on the muscles for myofascial release. Pelvic floor muscle spasms don’t have to be the bane of your life. With a little know-how and patience, they can be overcome. Don’t forget to check out our other blogs for plenty of advice on pelvic health!
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