To lengthen or strengthen? There should be a balance of strength, stability, and relaxation. A pelvic floor that is too weak can lead to leakage or prolapse. One that is too tight can lead to things like pain or constipation. Therefore, it’s important to find a balance between strengthening and lengthening.

What is normal?

First, what does a normal pelvic floor do? One that functions normally does a few things. It is provides support to our organs and pelvis. The pelvic floor controls the sphincter muscles of the anus and urethra. It contributes to sexual function. Stability of the pelvis, low back, and hips is improved with a strong and resilient muscles.

In order for all of this to happen, we need to be able to squeeze and tighten the these muscles as well as let them go.

Signs of Pelvic Floor Muscle Weakness

While we need some mobility in the pelvis and the organs it supports, muscle weakness can lend itself to too much mobility. The following signs and symptoms could indicate that these muscles are weak.

  • Urinary Leakage
  • Prolapse
  • Low Back Pain
  • Stool Incontinence
  • Pelvic Pressure
  • Splinting during bowel movements

Signs of Pelvic Floor Muscle Tightness

Strength in these muscles helps to prevent things such as urinary leakage during exercise and prolapse after childbirth. However, too much tension can create other issues. The following signs and symptoms could indicate that the muscles are overactive or tight.

  • Pelvic pain
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder
  • Urinary urgency and/or frequency
  • Pain with sex
  • Dysmenorrhea (pain during menstrual cycle)
  • Painful bladder syndrome

Self Test

A normally functioning pelvic floor should be able to squeeze/ lift, relax, and bulge. You can try this by testing the following:

  1. Squeeze and lift as if you’re trying to lift a tampon (i.e. Kegel)
  2. Release the Kegel
  3. Bulge/ Expand the pelvic floor by imagining the sit bones widening

If you can feel a lift, release, and bulge of the muscles and are not experiencing any types of symptoms listed above, things may be “just right.” With that being said, if you’re pregnant, postpartum, or have history of pelvic floor issues, it may still be helpful to seek guidance.

The best way to determine if your muscles are coordinating correctly is through an assessment with a pelvic health specialist. This can be done with internal and/or external assessment of the pelvic floor muscles.

Check out the types of issues and symptoms that pelvic health therapy can help with.

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