Pelvic Floor Relaxation Stretches and Breathing Exercise

Pelvic floor relaxation stretches can help you manage your pelvic pain.

This pelvic floor relaxation video routine includes breathing exercises and stretching for muscles associated with pelvic pain. If you’re pressed for time, the short form hip and pelvis stretching version of this video is linked below (see more information).

Scroll below this video for how to relax your pelvic floor and set up for pelvic floor relaxation stretches.

How to Relax Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

1. Set Up Position

Equipment:

  • 2 large cushions or pillows for hip support
  • 1 pillow or cushion for head and neck comfort

Set up for pelvic floor relaxation stretches:

  • Wear warm comfortable clothes (tracksuit pants or leggings are ideal)
  • Choose a quiet area of your home
  • Ensure the room temperature is comfortable and warm
  • Set up out of any direct draft on a supportive surface (relaxation can be done in bed however stretches require a firm support surface)
  • Switch your phone to silent
  • Lay down with a pillow or cushion under each thigh allowing your thighs to relax and roll naturally outwards

2. Body Scanning

Body scanning is a useful practice to help you notice the presence of muscle tension in your body. 

The aim of body scanning is to improve your awareness of pelvic muscle tension. Try to avoid negatively labeling or reacting to altered sensations in your body. Notice any changed sensation in your pelvic floor, hips, buttocks or lower abdominal regions.

Body scanning technique:

  • Start lying down on your back
  • Close your eyes or use an eye mask to cover your eyes
  • Rest your arms comfortably by your sides and relax your palms and fingers
  • Scan your body for any areas of muscle tension by noticing body sensations moving upwards starting from your feet through your trunk and upper body to your neck and head. 
  • Try to soften areas of tension that you notice.

3. Deep Breathing Exercises

Practicing deep breathing exercises helps you voluntarily relax areas of muscle tension, including your pelvic floor muscles.

Deep breathing for pelvic pain and muscle spasm involves a technique called diaphragmatic breathing. Using this pattern of breathing relaxes the lower abdominal wall. When the deep abdominal muscles are relaxed it’s not possible to effectively contract the pelvic floor muscles 1.  Deep breathing moves the abdominal wall outwards and the pelvic floor muscles relax.

You may find it beneficial to practice diaphragmatic breathing at the outset and conclusion of your pelvic floor relaxation stretches. Use this exercise to help you whenever you feel the need to relax your pelvic floor muscles.

4. Pelvic Relaxation Stretches

1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Stretches (Internal)

Physiotherapy treatment often involves stretches for specific pelvic floor muscles. 

The pelvic floor is treated using internal vaginal therapy to manually stretch and release tight tissues. It’s not usually possible for the patient to manually stretch these internal pelvic muscles without assistance.

2. Muscles of Hips and Pelvis (External)

Pelvic floor muscle spasm may be associated with tightness and pain in the pelvic muscles that surround the pelvis as well as the pelvic floor.2

Gentle stretches for hips and pelvis can be performed at home by the patient to assist with overall management.

External pelvic muscles to stretch shown in this stretching video include:

  • Hamstring muscles
  • Gluteal muscles
  • Thigh adductor (groin) muscles
  • Hip flexor muscles (front of hip)
  • Lower abdominal muscles
  • Lower back muscles
The goal of stretching is to lengthen shortened muscles, restore muscle function and reduce associated pain and spasm. 

Muscle stretches should be gentle and pain free to stop your muscles actively tensing in response to stretching. Muscles stretch best when they’re warm. For this reason it’s useful to have a warm bath or take short walk prior to stretching.

5. Cease Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels)

Pelvic floor exercises are usually ceased when first starting treatment for pelvic floor muscle spasm. 

Contracting the pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises can worsen pelvic floor spasm and pelvic pain 2.

Pelvic floor strengthening exercises may be gradually introduced as a method of learning how to relax the pelvic floor. Your Physiotherapist may reintroduce these pelvic floor exercises when you can actively relax your pelvic floor muscles and your pelvic floor spasm and symptoms have decreased. This will depend upon her assessment of your condition.

Avoid returning to pelvic floor strengthening exercises in the short term to avoid exacerbating your condition.

6. Pelvic Floor Relaxation

Daily pelvic floor relaxation practice is usually part of physiotherapy treatment for pelvic floor spasm. 

Pelvic floor relaxation is usually commenced lying down and then progressed to sitting and standing. It’s also helpful to practice pelvic floor relaxation when you notice you’re pelvic floor muscles are feeling tense for example when you feel anxious or nervous.

‘Pelvic drops’ are a technique of releasing the pelvic floor muscles as you inhale deeply for brief intervals of around 5 seconds at a time.2 This exercise technique may be commenced when you have regained some control over pelvic floor contraction relaxation. Start out with 1-2 pelvic drops and gradually increase to 4- 5 drops in a row. It’s important to avoid bearing down through your pelvic floor when doing this relaxation exercise.

Pelvic floor relaxation often combines:

  • Body scanning
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Abdominal muscle relaxation
  • Visualization techniques for letting the pelvic floor muscles relax
  • Pelvic drops
  • Voluntary pelvic muscle contraction and relaxation (only when you have regained the ability to relax your pelvic floor muscles).

Pelvic Pain and Pelvic Relaxation Therapy

Pelvic Pain & Pelvic Relaxation Therapy for Women

Pelvic Pain and Pelvic Relaxation Therapy for Women (Audio Download)

This guided pelvic floor relaxation Physiotherapy program is designed for daily self management of pelvic pain and pelvic floor muscle spasm (vaginismus).

This program equips you with the essential core skills for managing and treating pelvic pain in your home. Presented by Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway this effective and easy to use audio program guides you step by step through your daily home routine.

References

    1. Neumann P, Gill V. (2002) Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. Pelvic floor and abdominal muscle interaction: EMG activity and intra-abdominal pressure. Int Urogynecol J Pelvic Floor Dysfunct. 13(2): pps125-32.

2. FitzGerald, M., Kotarinos, R. (2003) Rehabilitation of the short pelvic floor. II: Treatment of the patient with the short pelvic floor
International Urogynecology Journal. Vol.14(4), pp.269-275.

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