Do you have a ‘too tight’ pelvic floor?

 In Motherhood, Movement, Pelvic Floor, Pilates, Postpartum, Pregnancy, Self Care

Often women I work with are surprised to learn how important it is to learn to relax their pelvic floor.

Did you know that you can have a ‘too tight’ pelvic floor?

Or that a healthy pelvic floor can both contract and relax?

Did you know that an effective pelvic floor contraction is dependent upon being able to first allow it to lengthen and expand?

If you clench your hand and then try to pick up a teacup, it won’t work. In fact if you keep clenching your hand and then tighten it up more in the hope of making your hand strong enough to pick up your tea cup then likely your hand will start to feel really tight and perhaps eventually cramp. Possibly your arm and shoulder and maybe your neck will get tight as well as the tension travels up your arm. Ouch!

So, if you want to pick something up, first you need to relax and open your hand so you can then effectively pick up the cup and drink your tea!

The pelvic floor is like any other muscle group in the body (there’s quite a few muscles included in the pelvic floor) it can both tighten and release. The pelvic floor needs to be able to relax and lengthen so that it can effectively activate and contract to support you and your pelvis.

Doing multiple ‘kegel’s’ everyday without the equivalent release and expansion or integration into the rest of the body, is the equivalent of repeatedly and consistently tightening your fist to make your hand stronger. Not entirely functional.

So, either lay off the ‘Kegels’ (unless you’re working with a dedicated healthcare professional like a women’s health Physio on a specific program), or ensure that equal to your ‘kegeling’ you also take time to relax, release and lengthen your pelvic floor. 

So, how do you know if you have a too tight pelvic floor? 

You might not be able to feel your pelvic floor contract when you try to tighten it. OR, you might not be able to feel it release and lengthen when you try to relax it. OR, once you’ve engaged and lifted your pelvic floor, you might not be able to control the release and lowering of your pelvic floor muscles. 

You might only be able to switch it on and off without any graded control in between the maximum contraction or release. OR, You might leak. 

You might have hip pain or pelvic pain. Your hips and glutes and inner thigh’s might feel tight. You might have a painful tailbone. You might have pain with sex. Your pelvic floor might spasm, or you might feel strange cramps deep in the buttocks. 

You might have one of these symptoms or many of them. These are clues to the condition of your pelvic floor, not a definite diagnosis. Some of these symptoms are similar to if you have a weak pelvic floor. In fact, you can have a tight pelvic floor that is also a weak pelvic floor. Which is why doing more ‘kegels’ might not be very helpful. Which is also why it’s so helpful to work with a women’s health practitioner who can help you understand what you need to do to help your body get better. Because everybody is unique and needs different things.

Why might you have a too tight pelvic floor?

There isn’t one particular reason that will cause a pelvic floor to be ‘too tight’. Many things can contribute, here are some of the reasons it might occur.

You might have done way too many kegal’s or have a history of gymnastics or yoga or pilates or horse riding or ballet or being extremely fit and athletic.

Maybe you’ve had a fall on your pelvis or tailbone. Or you might have experienced sexual trauma, and have scar tissue there. Perhaps you’re someone who’s experienced lots of stress and anxiety or fear.

You might just be someone who holds tension in the pelvis and the pelvic floor. Or perhaps you have a chronic pain condition or endometriosis or recurrent bladder infections. Maybe you spend a lot of time sitting with your tail tucked under. Or you might be someone who ‘holds on’ all the time instead of going to the toilet when you need to.

Perhaps you had a tear or an episiotomy during giving birth. Maybe you hold your glute muscles really tight all the time, or possibly you’re a shallow breather, both of which affect the pelvic floor.

So who knows why a ‘too tight’ pelvic floor happens?

And this is why working with a women’s health practitioner can be so valuable. To help you untangle, unwind and re coordinate this often neglected part of your body.

So what can you do about it if you think you might just have a ‘too tight’ pelvic floor?

Gold standard is to see a women’s pelvic health practitioner. Such as a women’s health physiotherapist, occupational therapist, STREAM practitioner, holistic pelvic care practitioner, postpartum corrective exercise specialist.

Failing that, here are some things you can do to help your pelvic floor learn to release, relax and perhaps function more healthily.

  • Can you learn to breathe better? Perhaps release your diaphragm, and let your ribs move?
  • Check in with your everyday alignment, how you stand, sit and walk.
  • Try to stop tucking your tail under, swinging your hips forwards, or clenching your glutes.
  • Take some time to relax your whole entire body. 
  • Can you learn to ‘let go’ around the pelvis and right into the pelvic floor? This can take time, weeks, months, years for some people to learn. 
  • Perhaps you can start to notice in your everyday life when you’re holding tight in the pelvis and pelvic floor and can you learn to let it soften.
  • Get some bodywork to help you soothe, soften, and relieve tension.
  • Use a spiky ball to massage around your glute muscles.
  • Try to release your inner thighs and deep hip rotators.
  • Can you gently massage your lower belly?
  • Perhaps you might need to strengthen you deep abdominals, and other muscles around the pelvis like your glutes and inner thighs so the pelvic floor feels supported by its friends. 
  • You most likely will need to learn how to coordinate your breathing with your pelvic floor contraction. As in, how to allow your pelvic floor to release as you inhale and then how to reconnect as you exhale.
  • Can you be so very kind and gentle with yourself?

These sorts of things aren’t too tricky to do or to learn, but they are a bit tricky if you don’t know how.

Your pelvic floor wants to be strong, but not rigid, relaxed but not floppy. Responsive, reflexive and coordinated would be nice. 

If you’re concerned your pelvic floor doesn’t feel right or you have pain, then please get help. Please see a professional like a women’s health physio or a holistic pelvic care practitioner. And seek out a movement teacher confident in teaching you pelvic floor safe and healthy movement. You absolutely deserve to get help and to feel better.

If you’re looking for support to help rehabilitate your pelvic floor I can offer you 1:1 appointments in home (in and around Melbourne’s Inner North) or online via zoom. I’d love to help you! Please get in touch here.

You can get a FREE postpartum body recovery guide here.

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