Pelvic Floor Relaxation
Kegels are a great way for most women to ensure that they retain healthy function of their pelvic floor. However, in some women the pelvic floor muscles are actually too tight. This is known as Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia, Pelvic Floor Tension Myalgia, Levator Ani Syndrome or Hypertonic Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. While your pelvic floor needs to be tight enough to hold everything up and control your continence and bowel movements, it also needs to be able to loosen at the right times so that you can urinate, defecate and have sex.
The symptoms of a tight pelvic floor are:
- Difficulty urinating and emptying the bladder
- Painful urination
- Pain during or after bowel movements
- Pain in the lower back, pelvis, hips, genitals and/or rectum
- Pain during intercourse and other sexual activity
- Pelvic floor spasms (painful muscle twitches)
- Levator Ani Syndrome also know as proctalgia (pain in the rectum)
The cause can be a number of things:
- Prolapse surgery / Hysterectomy
- Repeated bouts of cystitis or other infections
- Pelvic trauma
- Bad posture
- Emotional problems (e.g. history of sexual abuse)
- Pelvic infection / inflamation
- Doing kegels without fully relaxing between contractions
If you suspect that you might have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction it's best to see your GP, who can assess whether your muscles feel strained. It's really important to get your symptoms looked at as there are steps you can take to feel better once you're diagnosed. If you have tight pelvic floor muscles, it's best to avoid Kegels, abdominal exercises, heavy lifting and high impact exercise like running. We've got some tips for you that will help you to relax and relieve your pelvic floor pain.
The type of breathing we’re going to try is called ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, and is often used in yoga. When you breathe incorrectly, your upper chest muscles are used to help your lungs as oppose to your diaphragm; this increases pressure on your pelvic floor. By sitting up straight and practising deep breathing, your diaphragm will work properly and stimulate your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to contracting and relax in a way that will help to ease pelvic pain.
Sit up straight; consider using a support cushion to make sure that your lower back is in the right place and you’re not slouching. Place one hand on your upper abdomen, then breathe in slowly and deeply, focusing on drawing air into your belly and feeling your breath with your hand. Gently breathe out by letting your rib cage fall back into place. Try doing this for a few breaths throughout your day. Another way to focus on your diaphragm is to breathe in deeply through your nose, then breathe out slowly through your mouth while making an ‘S’ sound like a snake. You may feel silly, but this will strengthen your diaphragm! Diaphragmatic breathing will also decrease your blood pressure, reduce your stress levels and improve the circulation of oxygen in your body. So it’s definitely worth giving it a go!
Down Training or 'Reverse Kegels'
A reverse Kegel is exactly what it sounds like – the aim is to relax the pelvic muscles rather than tense them. What you are looking for is the same feeling as when you start to go to the toilet; the pelvic floor muscles ‘drop’ and relax to let urine come out. You can start by doing the deep breathing exercises as above, while focusing on how the muscles around your anus, vagina and urethra feel as you breathe in and out.
Lie down on your back with a pillow under your knees, or on your side with one between your thighs. Try to gently relax your pelvic muscles, allowing them to move downwards without straining; think about how they feel when you go to the toilet (it is a good idea to go before you do this to avoid accidents!). It may help to try relaxing your abdominal muscles first, by placing your hand on your navel and allowing your belly to relax and bulge forwards. Reverse Kegel exercises shouldn’t feel uncomfortable; if you feel like you’re not managing to release your muscles then resist the urge to bear down as this will cause strain. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself; now that you know how to do reverse Kegels you can keep trying every few days, there’s no rush.
Pelvic floor drops are another exercise that will show you how to relax the pelvic floor. They are used by physiotherapists to help clients to get into the most relaxed position possible for their pelvic floor and provide relief. All you need to do is lie on your back, pull your legs up so that your knees are bent above you and slowly and gently drop your knees outward while keeping your feet together. Resting your feet on a yoga ball or chair will help to make this easier.
Learn to Relax
Taking simple steps to relax entirely will help to ease muscle tension all over your body, including your pelvic floor muscles. Simply having a lie down for a few minutes with a pillow under your knees or between your legs will take weight off of your pelvic floor muscles and provide quick pain relief. You can also try using a heat pad over your belly; the warmth will help you to relax whilst heat is a commonly recommended to soothe pain.
We understand just how debilitating pelvic pain can be; preventing you from socialising with friends, making it difficult to work, and even disrupting intimacy with your partner. If your pelvic pain is causing you sexual difficulties, a set of vaginal dilators can help. By using them to gently practice penetration by yourself in a relaxed environment, you can help yourself and your muscles to feel more relaxed when you’re with your partner. Often being able to stretch these muscles away from the pressure of actual sex can be a huge help. Dilators can also be used to reach and massage specific tense pelvic floor muscles via the vagina.
Because we understand, we have included a clinically proven Relaxation Programme on our best-selling Kegel8 Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner as well as two other Pain Relief Programmes including our Chronic Pain Relief Programme which delivers treatment via external skin electrodes so you don't have to worry about using a vaginal probe whilst your in discomfort.
We hope these tips will help with your pelvic pain; it is so empowering to learn how to help yourself!