woman with hypertonic pelvic floor muscles

Strong Armstrong: When Your Pelvic Floor Goes Hypertonic

Around here we talk a lot about pelvic floors being loosey goosey. So would you believe me if I told you that your pelvic floor can become too tight? Turns out, it’s pretty darn possible. You might hear it called pelvic floor hypertonia or a hypertonic pelvic floor. I know we’re always told to practice our Kegels so we can snapback, but sometimes the desired snapback is actually a clap back.

When The Snapback Goes Wrong

If you deal with the occasional spritz, you’ve probably been told or read somewhere that you should try Kegels. Next thing you know you’re doing Kegels everywhere. You’re secretly squeezing your pelvic floor muscles while grocery shopping, picking out gifts, making dinner, yelling at your partner…you get the picture. Bring on the bladder leak pads.

Doing Kegels is great if a weakened pelvic floor is causing your leaks or if you want to improve certain sensations. However, there’s a such thing as too much of a good thing. (Unless you’re talking about ice cream).

When the pelvic floor becomes too tight, or hypertonic, Kegels can actually make leaks worse. And it doesn’t just stop there. It can make rolling around in the hay a little painful, too.

A Pelvic Floor of Steel

If your pelvic floor has a hard time relaxing and is always in a contracted state, then you have an overactive pelvic floor, or a hypertonic pelvic floor, AKA, a pelvic floor of steel. And that just might lead to incontinence.

When your pelvic floor muscles are constantly in a strong state, then it becomes weak when you actually need it. It’s overworked and tired. Need to sneeze? Leak. Need to lift a baby? Leak. Need to cough? Leak, leak, leak. A too tense and tight pelvic floor will do the opposite of what you actually want it to do so it’s important to find a happy medium. Just like baby bear’s porridge.

You want your pelvic floor to be strong, but you don’t want it to be strong STRONG, as the kids say.

Signs of a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor

If your pelvic floor is hypertonic and as strong as a heavyweight champ, then you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain or constipation when opening your bowels
  • Issues emptying your bladder
  • Pain when inserting a tampon
  • Sudden urges to go
  • Bladder leakage
  • Painful sex
  • Challenges with getting your pee to come out

Why Some Experience Hypertonic Pelvic Floor And Others Don’t

Some ladies do Kegels all the time and don’t experience overactive pelvic floor muscles. And then there are those who rarely do pelvic floor exercises, but do experience it. So what’s that all about?

Well, Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises aren’t the only things that cause a hypertonic pelvic floor. Women that experience anxiety may unintentionally tighten their pelvic floor muscles when they’re overwhelmed. Just like how your shoulder and neck muscles get tense and can “carry your stress.”

Are you a workout fanatic who strives for rockhard abs? Do you also suck your stomach in when passing a mirror or posing for a picture? If yes, then you could be training your pelvic floor muscles to be strong. After all, monkey see, monkey do. If your abs are overactive, then their nearby pelvic floor neighbor might do the same.

And we can’t forget about posture. If you’re constantly putting your pelvis in a shortened position by sitting too much or slouching, then you’re creating tension.

Ways To Calm Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

If you think your pelvic floor is strong-arming you, then consider the different ways to calm it down. If you were getting out of hand with the Kegels, then slow it down a bit. If you’ve been unintentionally tightening your pelvic floor, then consider deep breathing exercises. Are you running a lot or exercising frequently? Be sure to stretch out your hips and abdominals more.

Last but certainly not least, tell your doctor. They may suggest biofeedback and pelvic floor stimulation therapy.

And if you need some back up support, Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door. Start your trial today.

By Jessica Thomas, MPH