If you suffer from frequent back spasms or urination or, on the flip-side, have difficulty urinating, there's a chance you might have a tight or overactive pelvic floor. Most people are unaware that their pelvic floor is the problem, which is actually not an uncommon issue. Yet, understanding how to relax your pelvic floor muscles is essential to maintaining a healthy bladder, rectum, and reproductive organs, Diane Thomas, MD, an urogynecology specialist in California, told POPSUGAR.
The good news is, learning how to relax your pelvic floor isn't rocket science, but it will take patience, dedication, and time.
Why do my pelvic floor muscles feel tight?
The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles and ligaments that support the organs of the lower abdomen and helps them function, and proper pelvic floor control it crucial for the bladder, bowels, rectum, uterus, vagina, and prostate. This is why a dysfunctioning pelvic floor is so important to address.
The origin behind the tightness in your pelvic floor usually falls into one of two categories: physical or psychological trauma, Alexcis Ford, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and fellowship-trained urogynecologist in Georgia, told POPSUGAR. Recent surgery, childbirth, pain from an infection in the bladder, or even a painful sexual encounter, can all contribute to pelvic floor muscle spasm, or high-tone pelvic floor dysfunction. Furthermore, psychological trauma can prevent the pelvic floor from relaxing, too. "Just like we may develop pain from tense muscles in our neck or back when we are stressed or struggling with painful emotions, we can also develop these tight muscles in the pelvic floor," she said.
Similarly, overactivity or lack of activity in the form of weak muscles can result in a tight pelvic floor, according to Lori Atkins, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn who specializes in pelvic surgeries and is an associate professor at Texas Christian University and University of North Texas' School of Medicine. She added that if there is structural asymmetry or sacroiliac joint dysfunction to the lower back, this can create spasm of pelvic floor as well.
How do I relax my pelvic floor muscles?
There are several methods and routes you can take in aiding pelvic floor relaxation; however, Dr. Thomas believes having a strong team who specializes in pelvic floor disorders is crucial. This could include a urogynecologist or other pelvic floor specialist, a pelvic floor physical therapist, and a colorectal surgeon, she explained. Oral medications, suppositories, topical creams, and ointments are all potential options for localizing pain management. In more serious cases, trigger point injections or surgical options can be discussed with your provider.
Non-pharmaceutical options such as breathing techniques, internal pelvic floor massage, and biofeedback can help with relaxing the muscles, and managing stress can also be a strong component. "Pelvic floor muscle spasms are highly treatable and taking care of our mental health is vital to having a healthy pelvic floor," said Dr. Ford. She suggests seeking out close friends, family, and support groups for assistance.
Lastly, at-home exercises that specifically target the spasming muscle can help relieve pain, Dr. Atkins told POPSUGAR. "If you can gain voluntary control of the muscle, you should be able to create voluntary relaxation. Stimulating a muscle contraction is one way to fatigue the muscle so that it may relax," she explained. A pilates ball and yoga positions such as warrior, triangle, double pigeon, and frog can help. Dr. Atkins stresses that stimulating proper contraction is important in order to gain length and flexibility so, before creating your own regimen, it's important to speak to a specialized pelvic floor physical therapist to avoid any further injuries.
Why is relaxing my pelvic floor muscles important?
Relaxation of the pelvic floor is essential for routine bodily functions as well as having comfortable penetrative intercourse. If left untreated, pain can increase and spread to other areas like the back or legs and overtime, disrupt simple everyday activities like walking, sitting, or standing, said Dr. Thomas.
If you're experiencing pain in or around your pelvic floor, Dr. Ford highly recommends scheduling an exam with a urogynecologist as soon as possible to avoid any future possible ramifications.