Relaxation Exercises to Treat Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Relaxed Vs. Tense
Welcome all! First of all I want to let everyone know that this article about how to relax your pelvic floor muscles will not go on and on about doing Kegels and strengthening exercises. For people who suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, that is the complete opposite of what we want.
Also please note that the information I present here is exactly that: information. Please please consult your doctor or physical therapist before performing any new exercises or stretches.
What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
A quick overview of pelvic floor dysfunction, including symptoms and causes.
- Lack of control over pelvic floor muscles
- Muscles in constant contraction state
- Involuntary contractions and inability to relax muscles
- Pelvic floor pain while sitting or during intercourse
- In men, pelvic floor dysfunction can cause premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction
- Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause irritable bowel syndrome and urinary frequency.
- People who engage in a lot of physical exercise—for example, dancers and gymnasts—are required to maintain strong pelvic muscles and hold strong contractions in order to perform their exercises. This often leads to constantly holding a tense pelvic floor.
- People who are a little shy, anxious or depressed may find that they tense many muscles in their body and this includes the pelvic floor muscles. When you feel anxious, you will automatically tense these muscles, and it can become a habit that's hard to break.
- Poor posture, including the way you sit, can play a huge role in pelvic floor dysfunction. A major cause of pelvic floor dysfunction is anterior pelvic tilt or a curve in the lower back.
- Tight hip flexors are a major cause. Do you find yourself favoring a certain leg when standing up, or do you lean with your pelvis out to one side? This can cause an imbalance in your pelvic floor muscles, causing them to tense up to support your body.
I feel like I am rambling on a bit, and I know you want me to hurry up and get to the exercises, but remember the most important thing is to make a conscious effort to examine how you are holding your pelvic floor muscles throughout the day. For example, when feeling tense, take a deep breath through your diaphragm and relax your pelvic floor. This can be a good way to train your brain as well as fight anxiety. Now to the exercises.
Exercise 1: Pelvic Floor Relaxation and Opening up the Hip Rotators
The first exercise is a relaxation exercise which should not only help to relax your muscles but also relax your mind.
- Lie down on a comfortable surface on your back
- Place the soles of your feet together and open up your hips
- Extend your arms straight out form your sides
- Take a deep breath in through the nose into the pit of your stomach, focusing on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles
- Exhale slowly while maintaining focus on your muscles.
If you find it hard to open up your hips, you can place a pillow under your upper thighs and lower buttocks. Try to do a relaxation exercise for about 10 -15 minutes. Let yourself go and relax your entire body including your pelvic floor muscles. Feel them relax as you breathe in deeply.
The video below will also help you in loosening those tight hip rotators in order to perform the pelvic floor relaxation more easily.
Loosening Hip Rotators
Exercise 2: Easy Pelvic Floor Stretch
This stretch is by far my favorite, as it doesn't require flexible hip rotators and will give a pleasant stretch to your pelvic muscles as well as give your muscles a chance to relax.
The exercise is often referred to as the pillow stretch or lower abdominal stretch. To perform the exercise you will:
- Warm up with some light stretches to get your blood moving
- Lie flat on your back in a comfortable spot or on a yoga/exercise mat
- Place a folded-over pillow (or a foam roller, or other semi-firm object) under your buttocks or upper thighs.
- Spread your arms directly out to your sides (or stretch them out above your head flat on the floor for a more intense stretch).
- Hold this position and breathe deeply, focusing on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.
- You should find as you take a deep breath into your diaphragm that your pelvic floor muscles will naturally relax. Relax your anus and surrounding muscles if you are prone to hold tension in these areas.
- Do this exercise for 10-15 minutes a day to help promote relaxation in your pelvic floor muscles.
- Note: Always consult your physical therapist or doctor before performing any new exercises. This exercise can put a bit of strain on your lower back and abdominals so please take it easy and start with a smaller pillow and work your way up.
- The KEY to this exercise is to have your pelvic bone as the highest point to not just relieve the pressure of the weight of your body bearing down on your pelvic muscles but to help produce an effective stretch.
Exercise 3: Pelvic Floor Massage With Tennis Ball
Massage can be a very useful tool in fighting pelvic floor tightness. When used to loosen tight muscles before a stretching session, it should give you a better range of movement and a more intense stretch.
Internal/external massage is a common practice used by pelvic floor therapists. I hope to cover more techniques for home massage in my next article. For now I will explain a simple massage you can perform with a tennis ball or similar ball you will find laying around the house.
This exercises can be performed on the floor but I have found it easier to hit the muscle when you use a chair.
The muscle we are primarily trying to target here is the perineum which for men is located between the penis and anus and for women between the vagina and anus. This is a common exercise used by dancers to push blood through the pelvic floor muscles and encourage the pelvic muscles to relax.
- Warm up before this exercise with a quick jog on the spot, our use a heating pad to warm up the muscles before massage.
- Place the tennis ball under your perineum and gently ease your body weight onto it. (I want to emphasize "gently" here.)
- Breath deeply and relax into the ball, focusing on relaxing your perineum and surrounding muscles
- You may feel involuntary contractions; try to focus and prevent these from occurring.
- Stop after 3-5 minutes.
There you have it: a simple pelvic-floor soft tissue massage to improve your ability to relax your pelvic muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles get put under an amazing amount of stress throughout the day, as they constantly have weight bearing down on them as you sit, stand, or walk around. The only time they ever see some real rest is when you go to sleep at night.
In the next article, I will cover massaging the levator ani muscle which has been found to be responsible for many pelvic floor dysfunctions including pain and tightness.
Relaxing Those Muscles: Conclusion
I hope the article helped you find some techniques to relieve pelvic pain and relax tense and tight pelvic floor muscles. Everyone is very different and it may take a little time to find out the best techniques to help you relax your muscles.
A few points before you leave:
- Always be conscious of your pelvic floor muscles. If you find yourself contracting them, relax and let them release their tension. Train your body and your mind to relax these muscles fully.
- Always remember, however, that whenever you are lifting anything heavy or performing vigorous exercises, your pelvic floor muscles are required to contract strongly and tense up, in order to hold all your organs securely and support your body weight. Re-teach your muscles to relax and contract as required.
- During colder weather you may find your pelvic floor muscles are sometimes impossible to relax. Use hot baths or steam rooms to help you fight cold tight muscles.
- Please be aware of your posture; don't lean on one leg, or have your feet pointed outwards or too far in. All these types of things will put undue stress on the pelvic floor muscles as they try to compensate for poor posture.
If people enjoy this article, I will write another one covering the levator ani (external massage and internal massage for men and women), as well as some yoga and stretches to target tight pelvic floor muscles.