Overactive pelvic floor (also called pelvic floor muscle hypertonia) occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are constantly in a state of contraction and do not relax (1). When the pelvic floor muscles cannot relax, they invariably create muscle spasms and tension. This can be very bothersome or even painful, just as with any other muscle in our body (2)
What is pelvic hypertonia?
The symptoms of pelvic floor hypertonia can show up as, but are not limited to, pain during intercourse, pain caused by incontinence, pain when inserting a tampon, pain associated with frequent urinary tract infections, and chronic constipation (3).
Kegels are common exercises to improve a person’s pelvic floor, but in the case of pelvic floor hypertonia, they are not recommended. Kegels can be harmful to the muscles (they can cause the hypertonia) and be ineffective if they are not performed exactly as described. The margin for error here is so small. Therefore, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider before you start Kegel exercises when you are experiencing pelvic floor hypertonia (3).
This article offers 3 alternative therapies to Kegels that you can try if you suffer from pelvic floor hypertonia. They include relaxation techniques, establishing a healthy routine, and hypertonic pelvic floor exercises as part of a physiotherapy program.
Alternative n°1: Relaxation can help your overactive pelvic floor
It may sound incredibly simple but having a relaxed state in both body and mind can help just about anything we face in life. Some cases of pelvic floor hypertonia can be partly due to stress and other psychological factors like anxiety and depression. Having a more relaxed body (not only in the area you experience hypertonia) can help with the way you experience the symptoms, and how you think about them. Being kind to yourself and less self-critical are important steps to creating a more relaxed mind, particularly when combined with physical tonics such as warm baths, reading a book, walks in nature, and yoga. They can help you to focus on being in the moment and to be more mindful of the experiences that bring you joy and encourage relaxation throughout your whole body. Another great remedy to consider is psychotherapy, as discussing what is bothering you and finding techniques that work for you, whether that be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other psychological techniques, can help you relax more in your mind and in your muscles. All these techniques help to relax your pelvic floor muscles.
Alternative n°2: Creating a healthy routine
When it comes to incontinence/constipation and not being able to fully empty your bladder, having a routine can help. You can consider taking more time in the toilet and fully emptying your bladder by relaxing completely. A lot of people push when urinating and it's good practice to relax, especially at what may seem like the end of the process, to allow the bladder to fully empty.
Another strategy to consider may be to try to go to the toilet at the same time every day when you know you have enough time to ensure you can fully relax and empty your bladder. Stretching your body and muscles in your core as well as belly breathing can help to awaken this area in your body and ensure you are emptying completely. These movements can aid with establishing a routine and ease the process too.
Alternative n°3: Physiotherapy can help you treat your overactive pelvic floor
Talking to a specialist will help you to determine the specific cause of your pelvic floor muscle hypertonia. We highly recommend making an appointment to meet with a specialist so you can begin the correct treatment for the pain or discomfort you are experiencing.
Some massages, such as manual release therapy, can help too. Manual therapy encompasses an array of skilled techniques used by a physical therapist to improve tissue extensibility, mobility of your joints, and decrease pain, as well as the overall quality of movement (4).
Hypertonic pelvic floor exercises can also aid as part of your pelvic floor hypertonia therapy. The exercises must be supervised to ensure you are performing them correctly and in no way causing further pain or damage. They can and should be adapted by a trained therapist to your specific needs.
Perifit: strengthen your pelvic floor with games and biofeedback
Once you are in better health or under the direction of your healthcare provider, you can consider Perifit as your pelvic floor trainer. Perifit uses the biofeedback approach, to provide you with instant feedback on your pelvic floor strength and the quality of your contractions (Kegels) by using its internal sensor and mobile app5. This device uses a mechanism to provide pelvic floor biofeedback training to all users regardless of age or pelvic floor condition and can be accessed through your smartphone. Perifit offers a fun and engaging way to increase your pelvic floor strength.
- All you ever wanted to know about overactive pelvic floors
- The Pelvic Floor: What you need to know
- Maintaining your pelvic health with good habits
- Why did no one tell me about the pelvic floor?
- Embrace physiotherapy, ‘How to treat Overactive Pelvic Floor muscles’ date accessed on 08/25/2021: https://www.embracephysio.sg/blog/how-to-treat-overactive-pelvic-floor-muscles
- Dr Amruta Inamdar Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Westchester, NY, ‘Hypertonic Pelvic Floor: Causes, Symptoms and Exercises for it! date accessed on 08/25/2021: https://dramrutainamdar.com/2021/04/19/hypertonic-pelvic-floor/
- Perifit, ‘Overactive Pelvic Floor’ date accessed on 08/25/2021: https://eu.perifit.co/pages/content-overactive-pelvic-floor
- Corner Physical Therapy Associates, ‘Manual Therapy and Myofascial Release’ date accessed on 08/25/2021: https://www.cornerstonepta.com/manual-therapy/
- Perifit, ‘Strengthen your pelvic floor with games’ date accessed on 08/25/2021: https://perifit.co/