Do you have pain issues in your pelvic floor muscles??
A must read for all females with a pelvic floor… ie. everyone!!
When I question most people about their familiarity with pelvic floor muscles and pelvic floor exercises they always tend to speak about how the muscles need to be strong and tight! I always hear comments like:
“Oh yeah, I know about my kegals, I know I should do more” OR
“Yeah in my pilates class they tell me to keep my core on” OR
“Yeah I try and do pelvic floor exercises at the traffic lights” OR
“Yeah I’ve always had a really strong pelvic floor”
However what I don’t often hear about is people knowing about pelvic floor muscle relaxation! This brings me to the reason for this blog- to highlight the importance of pelvic floor relaxation.
Our pelvic floor is like any other group of muscles in that it needs to be able to both contract AND relax. If our pelvic floor muscles can only contract/ tighten yet have difficulty relaxing it can cause/ contribute to pain issues.
To put this into context us females will understand.. say you are wearing a wire bra to give your breasts support during the day.. this may be required while at work however imagine if you then had to wear this bra 24/7.. eventually you would feel the ache/pain/discomfort that comes with this and you would want to let things relax so you take off the bra. Your pelvic floor is kind of similar. Yes we need it to be supportive so it holds our pelvic organs up and keeps us from leaking but it also needs to know how to relax also so we can empty our bladder and bowel and so we don’t have pain issues!
Another example (for those that have to wear wire bras).. imagine if you walk around all day with your hand pulled in tightly to make a fist.. It feels ok at first.. but give it about 5/10 minutes.. it would hurt right? This highlights again the need to relax muscles. Same goes for your pelvic floor.
If our pelvic floor remains ‘on’ or ‘contracted’ it can contribute to pain issues or other urinary, bowel, and/or sexual issues.
This could look like any of the below:
Pain with intercourse Pain with orgasm or difficulty reaching orgasm Pain with inserting tampons Pain with papsmears / speculum exams Difficulty emptying your bowel Difficulty emptying your bladder or incomplete emptying Urinary urgency or urgency incontinence
In other conditions such as endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain syndromes, recurrent UTI’s, post gynaecology surgeries, post perineal stitches (ie. birth related) pelvic floor relaxation can also be difficult and can contribute to pain.
Regardless if you have any of the issues/conditions listed above I want you to have a think if you know how to relax your pelvic floor. While reading this I want you to find your pelvic floor muscles and contract them. By this I mean think about stopping the flow of urine midstream, tightening vaginally, holding wind. You should feel perineal area tighten AND lift up. This is the pelvic floor contracting. Now I want you to let the muscles go. You should feel the pelvic floor loosen and drop down. This is pelvic floor relaxation. Can you feel it? It’s harder than you think!
Here is a visual for those visual learners..
Think of your pelvic floor muscles as a lift - it goes up floors and down floors. When our pelvic floor is resting it should be on the ground floor. When we are strengthening our pelvic floor we bring the lift up to level 5. When we are relaxing our pelvic floor we take the lift to the basement & open the doors.
When I am seeing people for any of the above symptoms I often find an issue in their pelvic floor functioning and in these cases it is often a relaxation issue rather than a strength issue. When I explain this it blows peoples minds with most of them saying it makes perfect sense yet they have never thought about it like this.
The one thing I want you to take from this blog is can you feel your pelvic floor relaxing?? Are you able to do this consciously?
If you do have any pain issues or any of the other symptoms/conditions I listed above it might be worth talking to your GP, Gynaecologist, or Women’s Health physiotherapist to see if it could be an issues your pelvic floor. Could your pelvic floor be overactive??
Like always, message through the contact page if you have any questions/comments!