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What is a hypertonic pelvic floor?

QUESTION:
I’VE BEEN TOLD THAT I HAVE A HYPERTONIC PELVIC FLOOR. WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

ANSWER:

A hypertonic pelvic floor is when the pelvic floor muscles are either unrelaxed or so tense that they’re unable to relax. This is an area that is not widely recognized, so it’s no surprise that it’s not something you’re familiar with. But that doesn’t make it any less real to you.

A tense or unrelaxed pelvic floor can cause a number of problems, including constipation, painful sex, urgency to urinate, and pelvic pain. There is no single defining cause for a hypertonic pelvic floor, but there are several daily activities that can lead to an unwanted tightening of the muscles.

For example, some people try to hold their bladders when they feel uncomfortable using public restrooms or when they’re at work or other social activities. Holding it in for extended periods of time to prevent the loss of control can contribute to unwanted tightening.

Irritable bowel syndrome, birth trauma that causes scarring can also cause pelvic floor muscles to tighten protectively. Interestingly, many people who spend a lot of time exercising their core muscles can also develop tension in the pelvic floor because they don’t give their muscles enough time to relax.

A physiotherapist can help you identify those behaviors that may be causing or contributing to your condition. Better still, they can teach you pelvic muscle relaxation techniques, advise you on bladder and bowel habits, and instruct you on abdominal massage and stretching that may make a real difference for you.

Sources:

  1. Faubion, S. S., Shuster, L. T., & Bharucha, A. E. (2012, February). Recognition and management of non relaxing pelvic floor dysfunction. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 87, No. 2, pp. 187-193). Elsevier.
  2. https://www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au/news/577/the-hypertonic-pelvic-floor/

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