Why might someone end up with an ‘Overactive’ Pelvic Floor?

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Women's Health Physiotherapist Taryn Watson explains exactly why your pelvic floor muscles might be chronically tense, or in ‘protection mode’ all the time?

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    What Causes Overactive Pelvic Floor Muscles?

    Have you heard of the term ‘Overactive Pelvic Floor Muscles’...? 

    Your pelvic floor is the group of muscles making up the ‘floor’ of your pelvis and it should be able to move up, and move down, through a full range of movement, when you contract it and relax it. If this muscle gets really tense, and you’re holding it on all day, then its range of movement is going to be decreased, and it might end up causing pain and dysfunction. 

    If you want to learn more, have a read of the blog I’ve written called ‘What is an Overactive Pelvic Floor?’ 

    Why can pelvic floor muscles become ‘Overactive’?

    In this blog, let’s delve more into the 'why' behind Overactive Pelvic Floor Muscles. Why might your pelvic floor muscles be chronically tense, or in ‘protection mode’ all the time?

    Well, sometimes it’s for no apparent reason. But often it’s to do with the pelvic floor responding to stress or pain. There are certain muscle groups in our body that seem particularly prone to going into 'protection mode', including the muscles around the jaw, the muscles around the shoulders and neck, and the pelvic floor muscles. And sometimes, even after the 'threat' has passed, these muscles can remain on high alert and in a state of increased tension.

    So let's think about what things might cause the pelvic area in particular to go into 'protection mode' and potentially set off  an overactive pelvic floor.

    Painful occurrences in the pelvic region

    Firstly, it's really common for this to happen after a painful occurrence in that area, or recurrent painful/irritating occurrences in that area, such as:

    • After having a tear or episiotomy during childbirth, in particular if there was delayed healing or ongoing pain afterwards

    • After having pain in the pelvic, lower back or hip joints - chronic musculoskeletal pain in this area can be an ongoing driver of a wound up pelvic floor

    • After urinary tract infections or thrush, in particular if they are recurrent

    • After having painful haemorrhoids or anal fissures

    Stress and the Overactive Pelvic Floor

    It's very common after emotional or psychological stress too

    • After experiencing a stressful period of your life

    • After having a painful or traumatic sexual experience

    • Associated with trauma to do with a birth experience

    Exercise or hobbies and Overactive Pelvic Floor

    And sometimes, it can be a learned response over time – there are certain past times and exercise options which involve postures and movements that encourage the core muscles to be held on for long periods of time. For example:

    • ballet

    • pilates

    • horseriding

    • gymnastics

    This is by no means suggesting that everyone who has done ballet, or everyone who has had recurrent UTI's, or everyone who has experienced birth trauma, will necessarily have an overactive pelvic floor. But - Women's Health practitioners like the Physios and GP's at FitRight HQ will listen to these things coming up during an initial assessment, and will have little bells going off to be on the look out for pelvic floor overactivity during a physical examination.

    How can you get an assessment for an Overactive Pelvic Floor?

    Remember - if you would like to have your pelvic floor assessed properly, and take the 'guess work' out of assumptions like whether your pelvic floor is overactive or not, that's our bread and butter at FitRight HQ. 

    Book a Women's Health Physiotherapy appointment here.

    If you’d like the medical side of your pain or sexual dysfunction looked at, you can book a Women’s Health GP appointment here (the Initial assessments are 45 minutes long and deep dive into all things Women’s Health)

    And also remember - while pilates and other exercise involving 'core training' can be brilliant for women, they also can sometimes need some modifications for someone with pelvic floor overactivity to ensure they aren't worsening any issues. 

    If you book into our 8 week Exercise Courses, or our highly supervised Clinical Exercise sessions here, these can be modified to suit women with pelvic floor overactivity to ensure that you are not inadvertently worsening this common issue. 


    Perth’s Leading Centre for Women’s Health and Exercise

    Physiotherapy, GP services and physio-led exercise classes specifically for women

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