Expert Techniques that Relieve Pelvic Floor Muscle Tension & Pelvic Pain

Are you looking for ways to relieve your pelvic floor muscle tension now and for good?

These expert Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy exercises and techniques will help you get immediate relief and know how to overcome pelvic floor tension long term.

Read on now to learn:pelvic floor muscle tension

    • Treatment techniques that relieve pelvic floor muscle tension
    • Exercises and activities to avoid with pelvic floor spasm
    • What is pelvic floor muscle tension?
    • What causes pelvic floor muscle tension or pelvic floor muscle spasm?
    • What problems can result from overactive pelvic floor muscles?

 Treatment Techniques that Relieve Pelvic Floor Muscle Tension

1. Lying Down

Take the load off your pelvic floor by avoiding prolonged standing or sitting where possible.

Lying down with a pillow under your knees or lying on your side with a pillow between your legs will relieve the weight of your abdomen off your pelvic floor muscles. When you are upright, your pelvic floor is under load.

Unloading your pelvic floor muscles can give you immediate pain relief especially when combined with a warm pack.

2. Using a Warm Pack

Immediate relief can often be achieved by placing a warm pack outside your briefs over your pelvic floor.

Use mild heat only – some women find that the warm pack can be held in position with an additional pair of briefs placed over the top of a small warm pack or using a towel to keep the warm pack in position. The warm pack can be used for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Apply the pack when lying down with a pillow under your knees.

Pelvic floor muscle relaxation methods are outlined next and these can provide immediate relief when combined with a warm pack.

3. Practicing Pelvic Floor Relaxation

Daily practice of pelvic floor relaxation is an important for teaching tight and painful pelvic floor muscles to relax.

Pelvic floor relaxation exercises can provide immediate relief from pain and spasm.

Dr Patricia Neumann, specialist Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist has produced an innovative Pelvic Floor Relaxation CD to relieve pelvic floor muscle tension at home.

The Pelvic Relaxation Pack (shown left) includes the Pelvic Floor Muscle Relaxation CD and pelvic warm pack to ease pelvic floor tension when used together for home management.

Down Training Relaxation Technique

This pelvic floor muscle relaxation method known as Down Trainingteaches the pelvic floor muscles to relax and release.

  • Relax–lie down with a pillow under the knees for 20-30 minutes daily to relax the pelvic floor muscles. Sometimes a warm pack placed over the pubic area or lower abdomen can assist pelvic floor relaxation.
  • Employ diaphragmatic breathing – this means breathing into your diaphragm. Slow diaphragmatic breathing (like yoga breathing) is very important for relaxing the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Visualise your pelvic floor muscles relaxing and a warmth in the pelvic floor region
  • Gentle perineal bulging – this is very gentle bulging of the pelvic floor and should be taught by a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Bearing down too strongly can actually increase spasm so this must be done gently.
  • Relaxed environment is important e.g. soft music, surrounding warmth.
  • Total body relaxation – relax the muscles of the whole body, this may involve progressive relaxation of the different muscles from the face and neck through to the feet.
  • Employ body scanning for any areas of increased muscle tension and aim for complete physical relaxation.

4. Using Vaginal Dilators

Vaginal dilator therapy is often used in the clinic and by women at home to treat pelvic floor muscle tension.

Vaginal dilators (shown right) are used inside the vagina to improve the comfort with the feeling of vaginal penetration and to train pelvic floor relaxation with penetration. vaginal dilator

Vaginal dilators are also used by women following radiation therapy and following some forms of pelvic surgery such as hysterectomy where the vaginal tissues have become inelastic and require gentle stretching for the woman to resume sexual activity with comfort.

Sometimes the length of the vagina can become shortened during hysterectomy surgery and in these cases vaginal dilators can assist with gentle elongation of the vaginal tissues.

Vaginal dilators should be used with non toxic lubricants for pelvic floor health.

5. Managing your Bowels

Bowel emptying technique

Watch correct bowel emptying technique

Avoid straining to use your bowels and aim for the correct stool consistency – constipation and straining will exacerbate pelvic floor muscle tension and associated pain.

Use the correct bowel emptying technique to avoid straining and achieve a comfortable bowel movement.

Keep your stool soft and well formed so that it is easy to pass. Choose stool softener foods if your stool is too firm and causes you discomfort and straining.

6. Correcting your Sitting Posture and Support

      • Minimize prolonged sitting by taking frequent rest breaks where you stand and walk around
      • Sit with good posture avoiding slumped posture which is known to increase pelvic tension. This means maintaining the curve in your low back when sitting.
      • Avoid sitting on round rubber rings which can increase pressure  on the pelvic floor
      • A quality pelvic support cushion can help to alleviate pelvic pressure and pain.

7. Manual Physiotherapy Treatment

A trained Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist may use specific methods to promote pelvic floor relaxation and to re-educate the correct activation of these muscles. Pelvic floor physiotherapists are usually highly trained and skilled in manual therapy techniques for the pelvic floor.

Treatment techniques are usually progressed gradually over time and may include:

      • Desensitising painful areas to touch (using physical touch or vaginal dilators)
      • Pelvic floor stretches using digital resistance against these muscles
      • Massage techniques
      • Postural re-education
      • Biofeedback instruments which tell you about the activity of the pelvic floor muscles
      • Treating concurrent conditions which may present along with pelvic floor spasm such as problems with pelvic joints (Sacroliliac joints), tailbone problems and low back problems.
      • Progressive strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles only when appropriate.

8. Complimentary Therapies

Pelvic floor physiotherapy rehabilitation may be just one component of addressing pelvic floor muscle tension.

Other health practitioners may also be involved in managing overactive pelvic floor muscles including counsellors and/or couple therapy depending upon the woman’s associated problems.

Exercises and Activities to Avoid with Pelvic Floor Muscle Tension

Exercises that load the pelvic floor increase pelvic floor muscle tension and exacerbate pelvic pain.

These exercises and activities can increase pelvic floor muscle tensionIntense core exercise

What is Pelvic Floor Muscle Tension?

Pelvic floor muscles can become taut with spasm and overactive just like other skeletal muscles in the body. Overactive pelvic floor muscles have increased tension and or an inability to fully relax, a little like having very tight and painful neck muscles that will not relax.

When a woman experiences pelvic floor pain, this may actually cause her to involuntarily tighten her pelvic floor muscles even more, and so a cycle of ongoing pelvic pain and increased pelvic floor muscle tension or pelvic floor muscle spasm develops.

Gynaecologists and physical therapists are seeing increasing numbers of women with pelvic pain associated with the inability to relax the pelvic floor muscles. Because of the complexity of pelvic pain, this condition often goes undiagnosed.

What Causes Pelvic Floor Muscle Spasm?

Possible causes include the following:

      • Overloading the pelvic floor muscles with too much pelvic floor exercise and insufficient relaxation. Women who regularly perform pelvic floor exercises or kegel exercises need to take the time to relax their pelvic floor muscles too.
      • Overloading the pelvic floor with potentially unsafe intense abdominal core exercises
      • Pelvic surgery including prolapse surgery and hysterectomy
      • Pelvic infection or inflammation
      • Recurrent infection such as cystitis
      • Pelvic trauma
      • Postural problems
      • Mental/emotional factors.

It currently remains unclear whether pelvic pain causes pelvic floor muscle spasm, or whether the pelvic floor muscle spasm causes the pain – it’s a bit of a chicken or the egg story. What is known is they are both very much interrelated.

Problems Caused by Overactive Pelvic Floor Muscles

Overactive pelvic floor muscles can cause a range of bladder, bowel and sexual problems in addition to pain, emotional issues and progressive pelvic floor muscle weakness. These problems include:

      • Bladder problems; slow urine flow, difficulty commencing urination, inability to completely empty the bladder, interrupted urine flow and even urinary urgency. These can result from the lack of pelvic floor muscle relaxation.
      • Bowel problems; constipation, incomplete emptying of the stool, difficulty commencing bowel movement and straining throughout emptying. The straining associated with constipation can then cause increased pelvic floor muscle pain and increased tension. Furthermore additional problems may develop such as rectal prolapse, hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
      • Sexual problems associated with intercourse and penetration. Vaginismus is the term used to describe the condition where the pelvic floor muscles spasm involuntarily with the threat of vaginal penetration which can prevent sexual intercourse, insertion of tampons and gynaecological examination. Sexual problems that result from overactive pelvic floor muscles can cause considerable emotional difficulty with stress, anxiety and relationship difficulties.
      • Ongoing pain floor pain and discomfort caused by pelvic floor muscle over activity or pelvic floor muscle spasm can be very stressful and anxiety provoking which often makes the condition worse. The physical discomfort associated with pelvic floor muscle tension presents differently in different women; it may present as pain, ache or discomfort in the low abdominal, low back and/or in and around the vagina and anus.
      • Pelvic floor muscle weakness results from the pelvic floor muscles contracting too much and tiring out. As a result when they are required to work they are not able to, contributing to problems such as stress incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine with exercise or activity). The supportive function of the pelvic floor muscles may also be compromised, increasing the vulnerability to other pelvic floor problems such as vaginal prolapse.

If you suffer from pelvic floor muscle tension and/or pelvic pain, you can access professional treatment by speaking with your doctor or a qualified Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Relaxation Combo Pack

Pelvic Floor Relaxation Combo Pack Soft Pink

Relax your pelvic floor muscles and ease pelvic floor tension using the Pelvic Floor Relaxation Pack.

Pelvic Floor Combo Pack is designed for home self management of pelvic floor tension and includes this expert Pelvic Floor Relaxation CD and pelvic warm pack




1Shelly B., Knight, S. et al. (2002) Pelvic Pain, ch 23-27. Therapeutic Management of Incontinence and Pelvic Pain, J. Laycok and J Haslam. London, Springer-Verlag: 156-189.


  1. i have had over 2 years of pain.. can a locked up kegal..pelvic floor etc.. and any of the ligaments and tendons being tight around anywhere and then the bladder cause bladder infections… ?

    • Pelvic Exercises says:

      Hi Tracy
      If tight pelvic floor muscles contribute to incomplete emptying of the bladder, then this could potentially increase the likelihood of recurrent bladder infection. When emptying the bladder it is very important to; lean forward, support the upper body with forearms or hands on thighs, maintain an inward curve in the low back and allow the lower abdominal wall to completely relax forward (this helps the pelvic floor muscles to relax). There is also a technique called double void which involves emtying the bladder, standing and rotating the hips a little like a hoola hoop action and the sitting to empty again. This technique helps to remove any residual urine that can contribute to infection. Michelle

  2. i will add I am a core specialist fitness trainer who refers to kegals often in workouts.. so the theory of too much pelvic floor work and or intense abdominal core work… that would be what I have done for several years….

    • Pelvic Exercises says:

      Hi Tracy
      Yes this is a huge problem. Many women are exercising their core muscles too much, so much so that their core muscles are then unable to relax (including their abdominal and pelvic floor muscles). Intense core training and Kegel exercises without relaxing the muscles fully are increasingly contributing to pelvic pain and pelvic floor muscle tension among women. It is really important tha women are made aware to contract and fully relax their pelvic floor muscles. Furthermore women with pelvic pain associated with pelvic floor muscle tension need to avoid intense core workouts to alleviate the pressure on the pelvic floor until the musles fully relax and recover. Michelle

      • Michelle that is hard for me to do. For the past year I have done a workout called T-Tapp and this was a main focus. I am always tucking my butt and keeping my abs tight. I am going through menopause so I now have the lower tummy that I have never had. I am determined to teach myself to relax so that when I get the urge to move my bowels my muscles will relax and allow me to empty. I am excited as I read your book and start to use your exercises.

        • Pelvic Exercises says:

          Hi Peg
          Keep practicing learning to relax your abdominals. It can take some time to learn to relax abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Many women are so accustomed to walking around with them braced all the time to flatten the appearance of their stomach. Not to mention the intense core work and abdominal muscle exercises women unknowingly do in gyms and exercise classes. The abdominal muscles increase the pressure in the abdomen which is transmitted directly down onto the pelvic floor resulting in stretch and strain of weakened pelvic floor muscles and tissues. Good luck Peg, Michelle

  3. I just purchased your book because I am interested in returning to a healthy pelvic floor exercise program. I am 6 days post op hysterectomy with vaginal vault, and rectocele and cystocele repair. I am interested in knowing if you have had any experience with post op sciatic nerve pain and numbness after this type of surgery? How long does it last, and what can I do to help it subside?

    • Pelvic Exercises says:

      Hi Debbie
      First of all best to clear things with your specialist if you experience altered sensation post operatively. Numbness can occur post op if the sensory nerves are for some reason compromised – stretched or nicked during surgery, compressed with swelling, problems in the low back or pelvis from the position in which the surgery is performed (lithotomy or the old childbirth position) which can be unkind to the spine and or pelvis. To help relax pelvic floor muscles post op, pelvic floor muscle downtraining strategies can help greatly in the first six weeks see this article for details. Then if the numbness persists post op longer physiotherapists may start manual therapy techniques for the pelvic floor muscles (massage, trigger point release, stretching and retraining of the pelvic floor muscles). Also check out the source of the sciatic pain, and that it’s not SIJ/lumbar spine related. Back and pelvic joint problems can also increase pelvic floor muscle tension. Also supported sitting can help using make a foam wedge not a rubber ring which will make swelling accumulate in the pelvic floor region. A good idea to rest frequently and elevate the pelvis with knees over a pillow when lying down – this also relieves the back and helps to reduce swelling. Best of luck Debbie, Michelle.

  4. I was so excited to find your web page and all the information it
    > provides. I have learned more from your web page then from the four
    > doctors I have saught treatment from.
    > I had a cystocele repair and bladder neck suspension three years ago. I
    > had a hysterectomy, rectocele, enterocele repair with sacrospinios
    > ligament fixation with a prolift mesh kit ten months ago. Two months ago I
    > had a urethra sling placed as the previous surgery left me leaking badly
    > as the cystocele and my urethra reprolapsed. I chose not to repair the
    > cystocele as I was advised it would make sex more painful.
    > Currently I have been diagnosed with damaged nerves which causes a burning
    > tearing pain in my vagina and perineal area and muscle atrophy which
    > causes an achy pain and a feeling that something is falling. I will be
    > starting pelvic floor therapy soon. Do you have any helpful information on
    > this condition?
    > Thank you

    • Hi Lianne
      Thanks so much for this honest and useful contribution. I think it helps other women to read about your experiences so thank you for your generosity in relating them here.
      It sounds as though you have been referred in a good direction to receive pelvic floor therapy. It is not uncommon that after multiple surgeries to the pelvic floor that pelvic pain conditions can arise. There are many possible individual causes of pelvic pain and it may well be that other factors in your life are contributing to this painful situation also. Your physiotherapist will assess other potential contributing factors as well as treat the underlying condition.

      Essentially therapy for pelvic pain is multidimensional. Some strategies that may be employed by a treating pelvic floor physiotherapist include relaxation strategies for the pelvic floor muscles and for the whole body, soft tissue massage of tight painful muscles, diet assessment to ensure good bowel movements and to decrease bladder irritants, education about the causes and factors perpetuating that person’s pain, breathing awareness training, advice regarding sexual intercourse, advice regarding the need to avoid using soap and irritants on the vulval area, use of dilators to desensitize painful regions to touch and advice regarding appropriate and inappropriate exercise. Your doctor may also have recommended that you commence specific antidepressant medication that has been shown when taken in small doses to help manage and alleviate pelvic pain.

      The down training strategies listed in this article on how to overcome pelvic floor muscle tension and reduce pelvic pain are also extremely helpful to employ to assist in managing pelvic pain. Alyssa Tait is an Australian Physiotherapist who works extensively with pelvic pain and lectures to University Physiotherapy students on this issue. She has created an excellent CD called Free Your Pelvis to guide women through many of the techniques listed above which may also be of assistance to you.

      Best of luck and trusting this information helps you in overcoming your condition Lianne.

      • Hi Michelle,
        Which specific anti-depressants help manage pelvic pain? Thanks!

        • Michelle Kenway says:

          Hi Jeanne
          The use of antidepressants for pelvic pain depends upon your gynaecologist’s preferences, your own general health and the actual cause of the pelvic pain. Antidepressants for pelvic pain are usually lower dose Tricyclic antidepressants (higher doses are used for depression/anxiety). There has been some evidence to suggest that antidepressants have some benefit in alleviating the intensity and duration of pelvic pain in some women but ideally this is incorproated as part of a multidisciplinary approach including physiotherapy and psychotherapy. Some examples of the types of antidepressants used in treatment of pelvic pain include Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Amitriptyline (Elavil) and Imipramine (Tofranil).

  5. Hello,
    I am twenty-one. From the age of two I have suffered from chronic constipation. All through my childhood my parents forced healthy, fibre-full foods into my diet in order to relieve me from this problem. My doctor and my parents always thought that the problem I had was due to my diet as constipation is most commonly associated with diet and exercise.
    When I was seventeen I started having sex with my boyfriend. My constipation subsided until a trip I took about a year after we had been together. Throughout the week long trip I hadn’t been eating the best foods, and was anxious as I was meeting his family for the first time and I never had a bowel movement. When I returned from the trip I had terrible constipation. We tried to have sex but every time we tried it was unbearably painful for me. Sometimes I felt so bad about it that I would try to endure the pain but it was just too hard and I couldn’t help moving away from him as he tried to penetrate.
    We didn’t have sex for an entire year during which I had visited the doctor three times. First she told me I wasn’t lubricated enough and that is why sex hurt. Then she told me to massage and stretch the walls of my vagina. The third time I came back I asked her if my problem could be associated with constipation, she told me that the anus and vagina are two separate passageways, she acted as if I was a hypochondriac and referred me to a gynaecologist. I asked the gynaecologist the same thing and she prescribed estrogen cream to me and told me to stretch the walls of my vagina. I did this. I started to be able to have sex, even though it was still painful—I wanted so badly to show my boyfriend I was progressing after he had not had sex with me for an entire year and only tried to help and encourage me.
    After about three years of my own research, this month I found a book at the library called “the g spot.” There was a story in the book about a woman with “chronic pelvic tension.” It was too painful for her to have sex. As a child her authoritarian father told her not to urinate in public washrooms because of germs. She would hold in her pee for hours until she came home and could urinate. Her pc muscle was always tightened, thus leading to her involuntary contractions at the approach of a penis.
    One day I was talking to my mom about this, trying to find out why I had constipation my whole life and how it could be linked to my sex problem. I just knew it was linked but nobody believed me! My mom finally came out and told me that when I was two my authoritarian father had yelled at me for pooping in my bathing suit at the beach. They had never told me this because my dad felt awful about it but also because they didn’t know it was the reason for my constipation—they always associated it with my diet.
    Well that explains the trauma that triggered my constipation. From the day I got in trouble I began to hold in my waste. When I felt the urge to release I would run to the bathroom or even go behind the couch or somewhere private and clench my PC muscle as hard as I could in order to make the feeling go away and it would go away for a few hours. Sometimes I would go like this for two weeks at a time—to the point where I would be sick and dizzy, I would have to stay home from school and spend hours on the toilet trying to go to the washroom. It sounds absolutely crazy but it’s true. By the time my body actually forced me to go to the washroom it was terribly painful because of the stool would be hard as rock and larger than normal. This would start a new cycle of being scared to release my bowel.
    Now after 19 years of having chronic constipation, I can finally learn how to control it, and how to have sex without pain. I just need to learn how to relax the muscles in my pelvic floor. The really awful thing is that constipation is something so embarrassing no one wants to talk about, especially when you are a teenager. I never told my boyfriend until we had been together for three and a half years, because I was so embarrassed. I just want so badly to get this story out and show other women that it is not a taboo subject and it should be researched further! Not enough people and not enough health practitioners know about this type of thing and it could have saved me a whole lot of pain and embarrassment if I knew about it earlier.

    • Lena, you just described my life, almost! Constipation my whole life which started from a very young age when I punished for pooping my pants and I began to fear going to the bathroom… I have never heard anybody else talk about this, but I knew most people weren;t dealing with the problems I had. I would have the same, hard giant bowl movements that sometimes were several days apart, an area of huge embarrassment and shame. I never made the link from constipation and painful sex (im 26 and sex has always been extremely painful so I start to avoid in relationships). I made the connection between this pain and my posture… I completely know what you mean about KNOWING there is a connection and nobody else (especially doctors..) believe you. I have dealt with this a lot with my posture issues and all the different areas of my body/life it has affected, sex being one of them. I’m curious about your posture and the posture of the ladies talking about this problem. I have an “anterior pelvic tilt” but it sounds like you are talking more about the tailbone being tucked under, which is the reverse tilt (im forgetting the term). I feel like my “down there” kegel area isnt flexed ENOUGH.. but maybe it is overly tight? but If have the anterior pelvic tilt, would that mean that I have the opposite problem? Because I feel like I have the beginnings of prolapse, possibly.. im not sure, but it feels like my insides are going to be “pulled out” during sex …at the same time i’m told that i know im “clenching” during sex so maybe the tightness of the muscles is causing that pulling feeling??? I also have a weak core (common of anterior pelvic tilt) so maybe I do need to work on my core and kegel, I definitely want to avoid prolapse. I know there is a connection between all this and posture–ladies if you havent, research the crap out of posture! No pun intended! It affects everything. I guess maybe what Im trying to find out is if both weak and tight pelvic floors can contribute to prolapse and painful sex.. or maybe thats not even whats going on with me… but anyways any info is helpful! I just want to be healthy and discomfort-free.

  6. Now I’m scared because I have been doing kegel excersises, running, abb workouts, thinking that this would help to strengthen and thus relax my muscle.

  7. I am having pelvic muscle tension and spasms. My psoas, abdomen and diaphraghm are also in a chronic state of tension. I had a tummy tuck seven years ago. However, last year I had two miscarriages, heavy bleeding from uterine polyps and then a polypectomy and d&c. Since I had that surgery my Internstitial cystits flared up and then i started having severe tension in spasms in groin, pelvis, abdomen, psoas and diaphraghm. it feels uncomfrotable to sit. I am most comfortable lying down or standing up. has anybody had similar symptoms

  8. Thank you Lena and Jen. Me too! Doctors treat me as if I'm just drug-seeking, but I'm in horrible pain … increasing for 16 years to the point I've been considering suicide to avoid more pain or degradation from a doctor.  Sounds drastic, yet this is where I am emotionally now. 
    My problem probably started in childhood, holding waste up to 2 weeks unless I could go at home. I've not coped well with some tragedies, and anxiety has always been an issue. I was put on medication that gave me chronic diarrhoea for years, and I tried to hold that. The same drug caused massive weight gain. That impact, a car wreck, years of stress and then over-exercising to loose the fat …have created huge pelvic floor muscles that are constantly contracted, and sporatically tighten more to excruciating extreme. My periods intensify the cramps, but the flow has nearly stopped (or squeezed off). I often can't even insert a tampon, and if I do, the "fit" vaginal muscles bend it u-shaped or flip it upside down in less than an hour. What talent, huh? 
    Uterine pollyps 7 years ago could have been a sign. In the last year, I've finally seen some specialists (a challenge in itself since "women's health" in Ireland is limited to child-bearing concerns only). I was refered to a pelvic floor therapist who sent me to a gynaecologist, who sent me to a gastroenterologist, who sent me to a surgeon, who sent me to a back pain specialist. Surgery to correct the rectocele and tummy tuck the baggy skin is still being discussed. The first test brought on bad memories and so they postponed the next invasion. Endometriosis and colon cancer have been ruled out. 
    Next stop is a facet joint block in 3 weeks. I'll discuss my pelvic floor theory again, with more vigour this time! Thanks ladies. 

  9. I don’t know how to relax my pelvic floor muscles when they tense up. I drink to manage the pain and rarely can make love to my husband. I was in physical theraphy for half a yr, I have all the yoga moves and the dilators, but my progress is turtle slow its months between each dilalator step and It makes me worse to do any of those stretches but the squat. I’ve been dealing with this for two yrs and I’m bout to lose my mind.

  10. Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article post. I
    like to write a little comment to support you.

  11. I done physical therapy with good results. However I’ve just lost 15 pounds and would like to tone us my stomach. I’m afraid to do ANY ab exercise. Are there any exercises you would recommend as safe, that won’t tighten the pelvic floor muscles?

  12. Hi,

    I exercise very regularly and was having problems with my bladder (constantly feel like I had a UTI) and went to see a gynaecologist who informed me I had an overactive pelvic floor.
    I have tried the relaxation exercises mentioned in this blog but want to know if there is something that I can do that will allow me to continue to exercise frequently!!
    Is Pilates a no-go?

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi CS
      Thanks for your question. Yes I understand your frustration and desire to exercise. I have a couple of throughts regarding your exercise and management with overactive pelvic floor muscles I will just list briefly.
      – Unfortunately Pilates is not the best exercise with overactive pelvic floor muscles, this is because Pilates involves a considerable amount of core abdominal work which can actually increase pelvic floor muscle tension. Water-based exercise can allow some women with overactive pelvic floor muscles to exercise (swimming/water walking) and short land-based walks can sometimes be tolerated. It is important to avoid high impact exercises such as running, and bike riding can be very uncomfortable with pelvic floor tension, low impact is the most preferable form of exercise while the pelvic floor is in spasm.
      – Women will usually benefit from Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy manual release techniques for the pelvic floor muscles. If you imagine very tight taut neck muscles, just trying to voluntarily relax them won’t always make a huge impact, for the pelvic floor relaxation is part of an overall management approach which often includes tissue therapy to stretch and relax the pelvic floor muscles, just as you would treat tight neck muscles. I hope this makes sense and gives you a little direction too.
      Best of luck CS

  13. I have recently been diagnosed with PFD related to too much pelvic muscle tension. It has been over a yr that my abdominal muscles and gut have been hurting. When I poo I cannot get everything with taking marilax daily. I will then take a dalcilax (sorry about the spelling) and feel like I finally get it all out. The problem here is that I have been in way more pain then I think I should be and the pain is worse after I get myself cleaned out. I don’t have pain in my pelvis only my abdomen. I have been out of work all week and wanting to go to the ER for the pain but know I will get drugged and sent home. Is the amount of pain normal for this or is there more going on?
    I go back to the Mayo tomorrow to meet a PT and get abdominal wall injections. I have only had 1 meeting with the dr there. They seem to not be answering me on the amount of pain that is normal. Maybe cuz I have only been once and have not started treatment. Am I just being paranoid? I don’t know what is normal and it took me so long to get diagnosed.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Mayday
      The pain with pelvic muscle tension differs in intensity and location one woman to the next. Pelvic muscle tension can cause great discomfort as well as difficulty with bowel emptying. Often when emptying the bowels and straining to empty pain is worse following this as thre pelvic floor muscles will be stretched during the process. Pelvic floor tension is usually treated with techniques to relax the pelvic floor muscles – you will have read about these techniques in this pelvic floor tension article. Warmth over the lower abdomen and pelvic floor can provide some good relief but often only temporary. Yes it can take a very long time to get diagnosed with this problem as unfortunately it is still not widely recognised or well understood.

  14. I have chronic lower back pain and I think my pelvic pain has been around the same time the back pain started but I only have pain during intercourse and when I use a tampon (though for much of that I had an IUD and no menstruation). My chiropractor has been having me focus on my core to help my back a lot over the last year and now I’m concerned that my back could get worse again. Do you think the back and pelvic issue could be connected?

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Robin

      Pelvic pain and low back pain can be interconnected. Low back pain and pelvic pain will often have an impact on the pelvic floor muscles. You also describe symptoms consistent with a condition called Vaginismus which involves spasm of the pelvic floor muscles or pelvic floor muscle tension. This can cause pain with intercourse, inserting a tampon, gynae examination. Unfortunately intense core exercise with insufficient relaxation can worsen pelvic floor muscle tension since in some ladies the core (abdominal) and pelvic floor muscles work together. It is unlikely that treating the lower back alone will alleviate the pelvic floor spasm.

      This article on pelvic floor muscle tension will give you more information on this condition. It would be great if you could access treatment with a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist however I am not sure which country you reside in and this isn’t always a feasible option for women.

      I hope this gives you a bit more information to help you along
      Best wishes

  15. I experienced a running injury 9 months ago. I have completed 6 months of PT, seen orthopedic doctors, back specialist, gynecologist, had 2 MRI’s, trigger point injection and a ProloTherapy injection into my Right glute. I have also been diagnosed with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (too tight). I am awaiting my PT Evaluation (in 1week). I also have PCOS and I suspect Endometriosis. Since my IT Band injury, I have had pain in my pelvic region, specifically the ischial tuberosity and pubic bone. Could having tight pelvic floor muscles be the root cause of my pain? I really want to run again.

  16. Hi, Im wondering if squats in exercise class or chair pose in yoga should be avoided if hypertonic in PVF?

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Margaux

      I don’t think chair pose poses a problem at all – it is a nice safe squat position, just try to avoid drawing your abdomen in ant the same time.

      As for deep squats in exercise classes – avoid them, this article teaches you how to modify squats (and other exercises) in the gym. You will see the heading is for women with prolapse however these principles will also apply to women with pelvic floor muscle tension.

      All the best

  17. Hi Michelle

    I have been diagnosed with Hight Tone Pelvic Floor Dysfunction where my muscles will not relax, this is causing Frequency, Urgency. I have been suffering with this for the past 7 months now. I am trying everything internal external PT, stretching, Warm Baths, Deep Breathing. I just wanted to ask you what is the best type of Yoga for Hight tone Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and also what supplements others than Magnesium would help assist this condition ? Any Assistance would be greatly appreciated as I feel like I dont have any other options.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi James

      You will need to be cautious with the Yoga poses you choose as some of them will increase pressure on the pelvic floor, particularly those involving intense abdominal activation. Many of these poses to modify are listed here in this article on Yoga poses to choose and avoid

      I am very much in favor of daily pelvic floor muscle relaxation or down training of the pelvic floor to assist. The best down training pelvic floor relaxation CD for men I have come across for men is this one linked here. Practicing the techniques on this CD would be a great way to help you recognise when your pelvic floor is relaxed and tense and use the strategies to keep it relaxed.

      Magnesium may provide a small amount of relief for some but not usually with excessive muscle tension. Has your doctor prescribed you any medication for this? I am not sure which country you are writing from however there are Physiotherapists in Australia that treat this condition in men.

      I really hope this helps you a little James, please feel welcome to reply further

      • Thanks Michelle for getting back to me. I’m based in Sydney and I have been seeing Angela James for the past 7 months in Bondi Junction. She has been very helpful in my recovery process. The symptoms seemed to calm down after months of treamtment in June, however in July I had a Cystoscopy procedure from my Urologist and bladder distillation and the symptoms afgter the procedure got worse. I’m actually considering botox injections as a last resort.

        If you have any other alternative treatments that you would recommend I would be greatly appreciated if you could let me know.

        Thanks James

  18. Hi Michelle,
    How do I find a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist? I am a 53 y/o female having low back pain and pelvic floor spasms of unknown etiology. Pain just started one month ago, but I am miserable. Going for colonoscopy, as most pain is in rectal area. Initial exam by colon/rectal surgeon (I thought I had hemmorhoids) was all good / normal tissue. His dx is pelvic floor spasms and he gave muscle relaxer and NSAID for pain. After 2 weeks, no relief. Do you think color/rectal provider or gyn provider is best source for care?

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Sharon

      What country do you live in and I can direct you from there. I think you are correct in sourcing a Pelvic Floor Physio review, NSAIDS alone don’t always resolve pelvic floor spasms.

      I look forward to hearing back from you

      Kindest regards

  19. USA, specifically the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans. Your site has been very helpful and informative!

  20. Hi Michelle,
    So happy to find this site. I too would like to find a female pelvic floor specialist (Madison, WI area) for my 21 year-old daughter who has been suffering for over a year. This has gone on too long and it’s negatively impacting this young vibrant college student.
    After many tests for many things, including abdominal wall pain treatments, it appears she may have pelvic floor muscular/vaginal issues. After several MD visits, pain meds, etc… We sought out a homeopath that specialized in laser treatments. The laser treatments have not solved or stopped the pain, but moved it…. but he (the homeopath) believes her pelvic area is in such spasms and is so tight that is causing pelvic floor/vagina area problems. However, for various reasons she is NOT comfortable with his next suggested steps of ‘digital’ treatments. I’m hoping a PF specialist in more of a clinical, professional setting can help her with whatever treatments are needed.
    It’s so sad, as a mom, to see your child, this young woman, in so much pain and not be able to help… other than be there for her and attend medical appt, etc… with her. She has a high pain tollerence… but the pain is increasing.

    Any comments would be apprecated.

  21. Rosemary Wissen says:

    Hi After nearly four years of pain and urinary retention and endless trips to GP and women’s health physio and two gynaecologist have been told by a Urologist that bladder problems caused by tight pelvic floor. I suggested this to physio more than a year ago and she examined me and said I was fine. So really on my own now as NHS in the UK don’t know about this sort of thing and certainly can’t treat it. I wonder Michelle if you have any contacts in the UK that know about this. Also bit worried as I think from various symptoms over the last 20 years that this problem has been brewing for a long time and the final straw was some gyne surgery so in your opinion at this last stage do you think it could be treated. Also think I may have a problem with joint hypermobility so wonder if this is the root cause of all of my pelvis and hips seeming to just not stay in the right position. Lots of tight muscles and trigger points all over this area. Getting so bad now that I can’t walk very far and last couple of months got pain in my ankle as well.

  22. Hi Michelle,

    I am a 21 year old female. Last May I was diagnosed with IC after a series of urinary tract infections. I previously had completely pain free sex. A main symptom of my IC is intense urethral burning, and when I was first diagnosed, I spent months tightening my pelvic floor unknowingly in pain. When I tried to have intercourse with my boyfriend for the first time 3 months after my IC diagnosis…my pelvic floor was too tight and wouldn’t allow it. I have been in physical therapy doing dialators and internal massage for 2 months now and my resting rate is still around a 9. I can’t get it to relax. I feel it tight all throughout the day. Any advice? I am miserable. Haven’t been able to have sex with my BF since all of this started. Will this continue on like this as long as I am in IC pain?


  23. Hi Michelle, thank goodness I found your site – I hope it’s not too late to add a comment.
    I may be in the minority here being male but I’m convinced that I’m suffering due to pelvic floor problems. I’m 48 and for the past 5 years have been battling cancer (myeloma). I used to be very fit, exercising and walking daily but for the past year I’ve been forced to spend more time sitting (whilst recovering from fractures) and I started suffering pain after peeing or sex and noticed that I had a slight dribble of urine even after I thought I was finished. My doctor assumed it was a UTI from lowered immunity following chemo but several urine tests have been clear. Nevertheless he has prescribed various antibiotics over the past 8 months, all to no avail. Unfortunately he won’t accept that pelvic floor tension is a possible cause. It makes sense to me given all the stress, drugs and enforced sedentary lifestyle.
    To be honest I could do with a few less problems. Your recommendations are really helpful but I would love to find a pelvic floor physio in the UK (North/Midlands) who could help me address this issue without more drugs.
    Any suggestions gratefully received.
    Thank you, Mark

  24. sanjog says:

    I m a 40 year old male and started doing kegel after i found i have some post urine dribble. I only did kegels for a week and now think that i have damaged my anal sphincters or weakened my pelvic floor muscles. Now i cannot control by bowel urgency (only in the mornings) and also cannot tighten my anal sphincters much like before, this was not a problem before. Does doing kegel weaken your anal sphincter muscles?

  25. hi michelle, i am yet another frustrated male with a spasm in my pf. it has been there since childhood. i am now aware of the tightness, which seems to protect me from the pain. i saw a doctor a while ago who suggested a epidural block may block the pain so that i can ‘relax thru’ the spasm a little more easily. another doctor suggested it was from loose tendons and wanted to do prolotherapy on my pelvic floor area to tighten the tendons which would allow the muscles to relax. i went thru several sessions of pt which seemed to aggravate the spasm and would cause it to tighten up even more. is it unusual that i dont ‘feel’ the pain, i think somehow it is below the surface, i do believe it is why i have such a serious somber personality. have you ever heard of botox in the spasm’d muslce to make it relax? one urologist gave me flowmax as it would help the muscles of the prostate and other muscles in the area. it helped at first, but gradually lost out. finally, i was in an vehicle accident in 2000 where my knee went into the dash, since then my problem has steadily become worse to the point of having to start self cathing in about 2009. seldom at first, now it is much of the time. any thoughts

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Toby

      Thank you for sending through your comment/question. It sounds as though this has indeed been a very challenging issue for you for a very long time. I read that you have seen many professional who have offered various advice. Toby have you ever been prescribed medication to promote pelvic floor muscle relaxation? Interesting that the PT aggravated spasm – what sort of therapy was involved? Regarding the car accident and worsening issue, there is a neurological phenomenon that involves extra inputs into the CNS winding up pain and spasm – it may well be that the additional inputs to your CNS from the knee injury have heightened the CNS output to your pelvic floor muscles.

      From a PT perspective my focus would be teaching whole body and PF relaxation as a priority even before manual therapy. I am not sure if you’ve seen this PF relaxation video with techniques to help you start. Toby I can highly recommend Patricia Neumann’s pelvic floor relaxation CD for men I am not sure of you are aware of this CD? I would suggest using this daily to help whole body and PF relaxation which can only help. Finally I am not sure if you are in Australia or US – I would suggest finding a very experienced Pelvic Floor Physio who specialises in treatment for men. I am not aware of US practitioners however there are some in Australia.

      I hope this helps you just a little Toby, always keen to hear back Michelle

      • Yes, i was prescribed flowmax under the idea that it would relax smooth muscles. i know flomax is for bph. and during the dre and cystoscopy the doctor didnt see significant bph. and the flomax helped at first. but the effect diminished, and with the doctors aporoval i doubled the dose. first time on the higher dose was amazing, for some reason my pelvic floor loosened up and i could relax it with great ease, but it was short lived. that effect from the higher dose lasted a day or two. after that, i would try to limit intake to 1 dose a day just to limit i intake of pharmaceutical. i finally stopped it because the effect had diminished. been off flow for about one and a half year. is there other medication people are using for cns to relax the pf?
        the pt was doing internal trigger point work. even if i am stretching out, i can sometimes aggravate the muscle to some extent where i can tell when i attempt to urinate next. it is a peculiar thing. for a while it will loosen up enough to where i can urinate but it will take several tries at relaxation but atleast i did it and didnt have to self cath. but then for a while, like a month or so, i will not even be able to do that, and will need to self cath all the time.
        is there anyway to stop the additional CNS inputs ?
        there are some good pf pt here in the states, i dont know of any off hand.

        • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

          Hi Toby

          The pelvic floor muscles are not smooth muscle, they are skeletal muscles just like the other muscles that you have voluntary control over. If you think of tight pelvic floor muscles as though they are tight neck muscles… How do we treat tight neck muscles? treatment options include massage, heat, trigger point therapy, postural reeducation to stop the spasm recurring, treatment of the causes of the tightness everything to help the pelvic floor muscles relax. Skeletal muscle relaxants are used by some specialists to treat chronic pelvic floor spasm. The fact that trigger point therapy aggravated your pelvic floor tension tends to suggest that your pelvic floor muscles may be involved. To decrease CNS output to muscles in spasm? learn to relax the muscles and practice this repeatedly.

          Smooth muscles are not under our voluntary control. The pelvic floor muscles are not smooth muscle. Smooth muscle contracts our hollow organs such as the bladder. We cannot control smooth muscle and this is not the type of muscle involved in pelvic floor muscle tension.

          Hope this helps you understand a little more about pelvic floor spasm.

          • thanks Michelle, yes, i follow what you are saying about smooth muscle and skeletal muscle. yet, for whatever reason it has helped. tell me, what muscle relaxants do you see that works the best on patients with the chronic pelvic floor problems ? for me, there seems to be an involutary response to the pain of spasm when i relax to the point that the spasm is reached… really i work on this every day. do you have any experience of using an epidural block to block the pain and perhaps finally stop the involuntary reflex of the muscles that protect from the pain of the spasm.. thanks,

          • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

            Hi Toby

            Different specialists have their own preferences according to that patient, their general health, contraindications etc so there’s no one right medication. Sometimes local muscle relaxants are used and sometimes general muscle relaxants or some antidepressants. I think this is something to discuss with your specialist if you haven’t already. My apologies Toby I haven’t seen epidural block used for pelvic spasm so I can’t comment. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of whole body relaxation and distraction techniques as well for pelvic floor muscle tension. If there is an intense focus on any area of spasm this is bound to increase the intensity of the physical response. I hope this makes sense too. I will be interested to hear how you go with this Toby, my best wishes to you.


  1. […] •if you already have symptoms of pelvic floor problems such as bladder leakage, bulging sensation in your vagina or increased pelvic floor muscle tension. […]

  2. […] awareness of how to relax the pelvic floor, and there are several other suggestions provided at this site. However, as with stress incontinence, my first suggestion is that you see your doctor and get a […]

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