Many women struggle with weak pelvic floors, which can cause bladder leakage when they sneeze, cough, laugh, or run. Experts often recommend Kegels to help strengthen a loose pelvic floor. This exercise can be a great fix if you don't overdo it or have a condition, such as overflow incontinence. But a pelvic floor that's too tight, called hypertonia or a hypertonic pelvic floor, can come with its own set of issues.
What Is a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor?
If you find it challenging to relax your pelvic floor or find it's always in a contracted state, you may have an overactive pelvic floor — also known as a hypertonic pelvic floor. Similar to a weak pelvic floor, one that's too strong or tight can lead to urinary incontinence.
Since most experts push the importance of correcting a weak pelvic floor, it may sound odd that one too strong could cause many of the same issues. But a hypertonic pelvic floor is always contracted, and therefore, overworked. When you need your pelvic floor muscles to work, they can become too tired. This can lead to urinary incontinence when you laugh, cough, sneeze, lift something heavy, or exercise. It's true that a strong pelvic floor is important, but it's equally as crucial that it isn't too strong or overworked.
What Causes Hypertonic Pelvic Floor?
Hypertonic pelvic floor can have many causes, including:
- Genetic predisposition: If your mother or grandmother had a hypertonic pelvic floor, you might also be more likely to have one.
- Chronic stress and tension: This can be caused by psychological factors, such as an anxiety disorder that causes your body to remain tense over long periods. Ongoing mental stress without a mental health condition can also be a factor. Physical stress, such as doing too many Kegels, can also contribute.
- Pregnancy and childbirth: Pregnancy places a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, which may lead you to tense them too often. Childbirth is often associated with a weakened pelvic floor, but it can also cause yours to be too tight.
- Post-surgery complications: Certain surgeries in the pelvic or abdominal area can cause your pelvic floor muscles to tighten.
- Injury to the pelvic floor muscles: An injury to the pelvis can cause inflammation, strain, and pain that could increase your risk of having a hypertonic pelvic floor.
- Hormonal changes: Women undergo many hormonal changes, which can cause their pelvic floor to be too strong or weak. Menopause, pregnancy, and even puberty or menstruation can cause significant hormonal changes in your body.
If you're battling hypertonic pelvic floor issues that cause urinary incontinence, it's important to speak with your doctor. Your doctor will ask questions and run tests to determine the root cause of your too-tight pelvic floor muscles. Often, treating the underlying cause can provide long-term relief from urinary incontinence and any associated problems. In the meantime, you can use bladder leak pads to protect against accidents and improve your confidence when in public.
Signs of a Hypertonic Pelvic Floor
If your pelvic floor is hypertonic, 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 fully emptying your bladder
Why Some Experience Hypertonic Pelvic Floor Symptoms and Others Don't
Some women can do Kegel exercises all the time and never experience overactive pelvic floor muscles. On the other hand, some people rarely, if ever, do these exercises and still end up with a hypertonic pelvic floor. But Kegels aren't the only cause of a tense pelvic floor. Some women have other risk factors contributing to the problem, such as pelvic floor injuries or hormonal imbalances, while others have zero risk factors. This helps explain why some people experience hypertonic pelvic floor while others don't.
Thankfully, there are various ways to prevent hypertonic pelvic floor muscles from happening. Although all women should practice these prevention methods unless a doctor recommends otherwise, they're even more critical if you have one or more risk factors. For example, a plan to prevent hypertonic pelvic floor muscles might include the following:
- Eating a balanced diet: Your body requires certain vitamins and minerals to function correctly. Without the proper nutrients, your body is more likely to suffer from hypertonic pelvic floor and a host of other health problems. Eating a balanced diet, in addition to taking a daily multivitamin, can help give your body what it needs to optimally perform.
- Staying hydrated: People are mostly made up of water, and since you get rid of a lot of your water reserves every day, they need to be replenished. Staying hydrated is essential for all your muscles — including your pelvic floor.
- Exercising regularly: While you don't want to overdo it, regular exercise is vital in maintaining healthy pelvic floor muscles. Avoid doing too many movements that target your pelvic muscles specifically. Instead, focus on whole-body exercises that include cardiovascular activities like walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, or hiking. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new routine.
- Practicing mindfulness: Stress can wreak havoc on your pelvic floor, but mindfulness can help reduce stress. There's a lot of excellent literature on mindfulness, but many women find the most important thing is to try to remain in the moment and avoid stress about the future.
- Learning healthy coping techniques: Healthy coping techniques can help you deal with stress, reducing tension in your body. Examples of these techniques include deep breathing, journaling, and exercising. Creative outlets, such as art or music, can also be helpful.
- Practicing proper bathroom hygiene: Whenever possible, avoid holding your bladder and go to the bathroom when necessary. Besides tight pelvic muscles, holding in your urine can also cause urinary tract or bladder infections.
Calming Your Pelvic Floor
Hypertonic pelvic floor doesn't always have to remain a lifelong problem. There are several ways to treat this condition. Your doctor may suggest doing biofeedback, surgery, or pelvic floor physical therapy. But there are less intensive treatment options you may be able to try first. For example, you might consider making dietary and lifestyle changes paired with relaxation techniques. Proper stretching before exercise is also important.
Once you've successfully calmed your pelvic floor, use the techniques above to help prevent it from returning. It's often much easier to prevent your pelvic floor from becoming too tight than it is to reverse the problem.
The Bottom Line
Pelvic floor muscles that are too tight can cause as many problems as those that are too weak. Thankfully, hypertonic pelvic floor can usually be fixed using a range of treatment options and preventative measures. However, when this issue can't be entirely reversed, taking the necessary precautions and making some positive lifestyle alterations can ease hypertonic pelvic floor symptoms so leaks occur less often.
If you have hypertonic pelvic floor muscles causing urinary incontinence, it's common to feel embarrassed or overwhelmed by leaks. But you don't have to live in fear of accidents. Instead, use special pads and underwear by Nexwear designed specifically for bladder leakage.
Shop Nexwear today and regain your confidence.