If you are a mom or expecting to become a mom, you have likely heard of the pelvic floor and it is most often referred to as being “loose” or “weak” or “fatigued”. But would you believe me if I told you that the pelvic floor can actually be too tight? Well, as it turns out, it’s very true, and a pelvic floor that is too tight can have some similar implications as a weak pelvic floor does.
I’m Erin, a Pre/postnatal Exercise Specialist at TLM, and I am excited to explore hypertonicity with you and provide some easy ways you can relax that pelvic floor powerhouse of yours.
If you ever have experienced the occasional bladder leak or trickle, you might have been told to practice your Kegels. You could have been told that the muscles of your pelvic floor are “not strong enough” to hold in your pee. Before you know it you are squeezing your pelvic floor in secret while standing in line at the grocery store, while making coffee, watching TV, you get it, but alas, the leakage continues. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “Practice stopping a stream of urine when you’re mid-stream” or “OMG I’m doing them right NOW!”.
Frankly, if you’re like me at all, anytime you hear or see the word Kegel, the pelvic floor kicks into gear and starts to squeeze. This language around the pelvic floor being fragile, delicate, feeble, or frail in some cases, is simply untrue, and the excessive use of the Kegel can lead us to the opposite extreme: The Pelvic Floor of Steel, or a hypertonic pelvic floor, which can ironically make leakage worse!
We want your pelvic floor to be supple like any other muscle, it should know how to relax and contract, but you may need to focus on the relaxation for a while to find this balance.
Too Much of a Good Thing?
Practicing pelvic floor contractions or Kegels with a pelvic floor that is in a weakened state can be a wonderful and helpful practice. There is the possibility of too much of a good thing though. When the pelvic floor is always in a contracted state it becomes weak when we want it to be strong (like during a cough or sneeze) and tight when we want it to be looser (like when emptying the bladder or during sex).
It is very important to find a balance, you want to find a happy medium: a pelvic floor that is strong and dynamic.
How do I know if I have a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor?
If you have a hard time connecting to the relaxation of the pelvic floor during a deep breath, while emptying your bladder or bowels, or if you are experiencing pain or excessive tightness during intercourse, these may be some clues pointing to a hypertonic pelvic floor. If you have a hypertonic pelvic floor you may also experience some of the following symptoms:
Sudden urges to go
Challenges with initiating urination
Lower abdominal pain
Lower back pain
Pain or constipation when opening your bowels
Issues emptying your bladder
Pain when inserting a tampon
If you suspect you may have a hypertonic pelvic floor we recommend scheduling an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist (they have virtual sessions!) or schedule a session with one of our pre/postnatal experts to help guide you through the process.
How can get My Pelvic Floor to Relax?!
If you think that you are dealing with a hypertonic pelvic floor then you are not alone! Many deal with this issue and there are some great strategies to work towards a more relaxed and dynamic pelvic floor that can contract AND RELAX when we want it to. If you are one who is very enthusiastic about your Kegels, lighten up a bit. Deep breathing exercises can also help to promote more relaxation through the pelvic floor. The muscles of the glutes and hips work with the pelvic floor to support your pelvis and center of gravity, you can help to relax your pelvic floor by stretching and strengthening your hip and glute muscles.
Feeling like you need more or have more questions? One of our Pre/postnatal Exercise Specialists would love to work one-on-one with you to integrate relaxation techniques within an exercise program and help you find the perfect balance for your body.