Kegels and squats aren't the only—or even the best—exercises for chronic pelvic pain. As we get older, our pelvic floors can become compromised, which can cause chronic pelvic pain. This is especially true for women who have had children, and because pelvic pain can be difficult to diagnose, many people live with the pain. But living with the pain is unnecessary.
The Best Exercises for Chronic Pelvic Pain
This may sound crazy, but the best exercises for chronic pelvic pain don't always strengthen your pelvic floor. In fact, sometimes chronic pelvic pain is caused by overworked pelvic floor muscles.
We spoke to Nicole Igel, a physiotherapist at Uxbridge Physiotherapy and the Whitby Women's Health Physiotherapy Clinic.
“Children, men and women all have a pelvis and a pelvic floor,” she explains. “And the pelvic floor has five functions.
- Stability and movement. Helps with movement of the pelvis, back, hips, and legs.
- Continence. Proper bladder and bowel function; prevents leaking.
- Sexual function. Facilitates orgasms and erections.
- Organ support. Supports the bladder, uterus, and bowels as well as the abdominal organs.
- Lymphatic or circulatory function. Helps with circulation and venous return from the legs to the trunk.
Kegels, or pelvic floor contractions, strengthen and increase the robustness of the pelvic floor muscles if they are truly weak or lack coordination. However, Kegels are not always the answer.
Often, such as in persistent pelvic pain or with painful intercourse, the pelvic floor muscles are overactive and tight.
In this case, it is important to learn how to lengthen and release the tension held within the tissues.
The main driver and strategy to help alleviate symptoms is your breath. Are you using a shallow breathing pattern? Are you breath holding when you have to exert an effort or when you anticipate a movement may be painful?”
(More on breathing later.)
With so much riding on your pelvic floor muscles, it's easy to see how when they're not working properly, you can suffer from a range of painful and potentially debilitating problems.
So, what to do? See a pelvic floor physiotherapist, for one. These healthcare professionals specialize in accessing and treating pelvic pain and pelvic related issues.
You can also do these exercises to help gently lengthen and release tension in your pelvic floor, helping to relieve pain. You’ll see even more of this tension releasing and muscle lengthening in our new Mobility Series on BR+.
It’s vital to remember that your mobility and flexibility is critical to maintaining a body that is functionally robust enough to withstand training and a long, healthy life. Sign up for a free 30 day trial of BR+ now.
3 Exercises for Chronic Pelvic Pain
Igel suggests doing these exercises every day as part of your treatment to alleviate pelvic pain. Go at your own pace and listen to your body.
She adds, “The key is never to push or force the posture but to “sink into” the posture and allow the muscles to adapt. Using props, such as towels and pillows, are a great way to support the body while in these postures so that you can focus on the breath and connect with your pelvic floor.”
Do 10 reps, breathing deeply as you move into cow pose and feeling your pelvic floor lengthening.
Don’t yank your legs down; allow your legs to find their natural range of motion and then gently pull a little more. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
Relax your pelvis into this pose. Take 10 deep breaths.
The Key to Breathing Right: Belly Breathe!
When Igel talks about proper breathing to alleviate pelvic pain, she isn’t talking about breathing into your chest — though this is what most of us do. We’re talking about breathing into your diaphragm so that your belly expands. When you breathe into your diaphragm, you will feel it in the bottom of your lungs. Your chest will not heave.
Try breathing through your nose to make this work. When you belly breathe, you will gently massage your internal organs, which can also help alleviate pelvic pain as well as stress and anxiety.
You don’t have to breathe like this all the time, but try doing it during your exercises for chronic pelvic pain to ensure you’re releasing tension and really sinking into the movements.
Try these moves and let us know how you’re doing in the comments! And remember, you can keep your mobility training on track with a month free of our BR+ Mobility series. We also have incredible deep stretching yoga classes to help you live pain free.
The Pelvic Pain PlayList
We have created a whole playlist of workouts in BodyRock+ that will ease your pain and get you limber again in no time. Please click the image below to access this playlist on our platform, if you are a subscriber.
Specific Workouts in this Playlist: