• Emily Reul, PT, DPT

Pelvic Floor Muscle Stretches

Hello friends, it’s Christmas Eve! This is often an exciting and joyful time but it can often come along with a lot of stress. Especially this year, COVID19 is changing plans and limiting access to our loved ones. With all of the extra stress, you may be tightening your pelvic floor muscles and not even be aware of it. Overtime, this can lead to an overactive pelvic floor which is often a painful condition.


When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our “fight or flight” survival instinct and gets us ready to get ourselves out of harm’s way. Even though we aren’t in harm, our bodies aren’t smart enough to differentiate between the stress of the holidays and the stress of something threatening our safety (like a lion chasing us).


Today we’re going to go over 3 stretches that can help to relax the pelvic floor muscles if they are tight. We need strong (but also flexible) pelvic floor muscles for them to be able to do their job. Remember, they support our pelvic organs, control sexual function, keep in (or let go) of pee/poop/gas, and act as part of the core to give us stability.


Disclaimer: These exercises are for educational purposes only and do not replace assessment and exercise prescription by a skilled physical therapist or other healthcare provider.


STRETCH #1: THE BUTTERFLY

The butterfly stretch—you’ve likely done this stretch before in your middle school PE class. For this stretch, you will sit anywhere that has enough space and you feel comfortable. Bring the bottoms of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the side. You may feel this stretching your hip adductor muscles (your inner thighs). You can lean forward to get a more intense stretch, but be sure to bend from the hips instead of rounding your back.


STRETCH #2: THE DEEP SQUAT

The deep squat stretch can provide a great stretch to the pelvic floor, but for some people this may take some time. If you find a deep squat difficult or uncomfortable using something like a yoga block to sit on can be helpful. You can also use a chair (or other sturdy object) as support. While doing this stretch, you can keep your feet flat on the floor or rise up onto your toes. By changing the position of your feet, you will change the position of your pelvis and can get a stretch in different parts of the pelvic floor muscles.


*Be cautious with this stretch if you have prolapse. It can temporarily increase your symptoms.


STRETCH #3: DEAD BUG/HAPPY BABY

This stretch is often a favorite in yoga classes—it might be in second place after shavasana. For this stretch, you will lie on your back. Then grab either your heels, the back of your calves, or your big toes. It can feel good to gently rock back and forth while you hold the stretch.


One minute is a good target for holding stretches, but you can hold it for less/more time. Do what is comfortable for you. While you hold them take slow, deep breaths. This will help to calm your nervous system and allow you to stretch deeper. As you exhale, try to go just a little bit deeper into each stretch. Keep in mind, that you should never stretch so far that it is painful.


It is important to be comfortable and relaxed while stretching. It may be helpful to take a hot shower or bath to increase blood flow before stretching. A nice candle can help you to relax, too!


Stretching the pelvic floor muscles is an important part of pelvic health that is often overlooked (sometimes we get too focused on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles). Imagine what that does to these muscles overtime! What if you were constantly squeezing your hand into a fist? Overtime, would your hand get stiff, contracted, and not work as well? Absolutely! The same is true for the pelvic floor muscles.