The 6 Best Pelvic Floor Stretches to Help Relax Tight Pelvic Floor Muscles

Pelvic floor stretches can help reduce pain and symptoms due to tight pelvic floor muscles. Find relief with these PT-recommended pelvic floor stretches.

Published Date: May 24, 2024
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To build your biceps, you pick up dumbbells. To work your quads, you’re all about the lunge. And to strengthen weak pelvic floor muscles, your go-to is Kegel exercises, which can help improve bladder and bowel control and sexual health. 

But for any muscle to be healthy and function properly, it needs to be both strong and flexible. That applies to the muscles in your arms, legs, and particularly those in your pelvic floor. In fact, some pelvic floor problems (like pelvic pain, trouble emptying your bladder and other symptoms) can be related to pelvic floor muscles that are too tight, or hypertonic. In this case, you might need to relax and lengthen your pelvic floor muscles before you strengthen them. Read on to learn about what can cause tight pelvic floor muscles and the best pelvic floor stretches physical therapists recommend to help relax and loosen your pelvic floor muscles.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Daroski is a pelvic health physical therapist who provides clinical expertise for the Hinge Health Women's Pelvic Health Program.
Jacqueline White, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. White is a Hinge Health Pelvic Health Physical Therapist with a special interest in supporting women throughout all stages of life, including pregnancy/postpartum care and menopausal support.
Tamara Grisales, MD
Expert Physician in Urogynecology and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Grisales is a board-certified urogynecologist and surgeon and oversees the Women's Pelvic Health program at Hinge Health.
Bonnie Whiting, PT, DPT
Pelvic Health Physical Therapist
Dr. Whiting is a Hinge Health physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health and prenatal and postpartum exercise therapy.

Why Pelvic Floor Muscles Need to Relax

Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles and connective tissues that stretches like a hammock from your pubic bone in the front to your tailbone in the back. It helps hold pelvic organs in place, such as your bladder and rectum and plays a role in bladder and bowel control and sexual function. 

Muscles are made to contract and relax. For your pelvic floor to function properly, you need to be able to tighten (contract) the muscles and fully release (relax) them. Just like other muscles in your body, your pelvic floor muscles can get too tight. This can lead to pelvic problems, such as pelvic pain, painful sex, constipation, certain types of urinary incontinence, trouble emptying your bladder, and needing to pee urgently and often.

There are many pelvic floor exercises you can do at home to help stretch and relax tense muscles to relieve symptoms like pain, constipation, or urinary urgency and frequency.

For optimal pelvic floor muscle health, your hips and core also need to be flexible and strong. The right mix of exercises will also help stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding your pelvis. This may allow the pelvic floor muscles to relax and help relieve symptoms.

Pelvic Floor Stretches

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1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Also known as deep belly breathing, slow, deep breathing can help lengthen your pelvic floor muscles so they remain strong and flexible. 

How to do it:

  • You can perform this exercise in any position (sitting, lying, or standing). For your first time, it’s best to start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Rest one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. 

  • Now, slowly inhale as you fill your belly with air so your hand on your belly rises up towards the ceiling. The hand on your chest remains mostly still.

  • Focus on staying relaxed as you hold that breath in your belly.

  • Then, slowly breathe out so the hand on your belly lowers with you. 

  • As you do each rep, you should feel your hand on your belly moving more than your hand on your chest. 

2. Deep Squat

2. Deep Squat

This stretches your inner thighs and pelvic floor muscles and loosens your hip muscles to help relieve lower back pain.

How to do it:

  • Start in a standing position, with your feet a bit wider than shoulder distance apart and your toes turned slightly outward. 

  • Lower your body by bending your knees and sending your hips backward, as if aiming for a very low seat or stool, until your hips are as low as they can go. (You can support yourself by resting your lower and mid back against a wall behind you.) You may feel like you are sitting between your feet.

  • Maintain the squat and place your elbows on the inside of your knees to create a passive stretch in your inner thighs, pelvic floor, and perineum (the area between your anus and genitals). 

  • Consider extending your squat while practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Take 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths while relaxing your pelvic floor (it should feel like trying to discreetly pass gas.) 

  • Slowly return to your starting stance

3. Supine Glute Stretch

3. Supine Glute Stretch

This stretch helps improve flexibility in your hip, back and butt muscles.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back and bring the foot/ankle of one leg to rest on top of your opposite knee. This is sometimes called a Figure 4 stretch.

  • Loop your hands around the back of your other thigh or knee and bring your knees up toward your chest.

  • Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

4. Hip Flexor Stretch

4. Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexors are a group of four muscles along the front of your upper thigh. Sitting for long stretches of time can cause these muscles to become tight. When that happens, it can pull the pelvis into a forward-tilted position. That puts pressure on the pelvic floor and can increase tension in your muscles.

How to do it:

  • Start by kneeling on a soft surface (i.e., yoga mat or pillow).

  • Put your left leg out in front of you so your left knee sits directly over your left ankle and your right knee is underneath your right hip.

  • Slowly lean forward, gradually stretching into the front of your hip.

  • Stop when you feel a comfortable stretch.

  • Hold for 15 (or more) seconds and then return to the starting position.

  • Repeat two to three times on each side.

5. Happy Baby

5. Happy Baby

Many people carry tension in their hips. The happy baby exercise opens up your hips and stretches your deep pelvic floor muscles. It can help reduce pelvic pain, decrease the urge to urinate, and improve constipation.

How to do it:

  • On a yoga mat, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  • Now, draw your knees up toward your chest, and reach your hands to grab the outside of your feet or ankles. 

  • Move your legs gently apart, stopping when you feel a gentle stretch in your inner thigh muscles. Breathe deeply and slowly. Focus on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, as you hold this position.

  • Relax back to the starting position.

  • As you do each rep, you should feel a stretch in your hips and inner thigh area.

6. Child’s Pose

6. Child’s Pose

This forward-bending stretch relieves muscle tension and helps to improve flexibility and mobility in your back and pelvis. 

How to do it:

  • Get into a comfortable kneeling position with your shins and feet flat on the floor. 

  • Sit your hips back toward your heels with your feet together and your knees wide apart. 

  • Slide your arms out in front of you on the ground while moving your hips toward your heels. 

  • Relax your head and chest down toward the floor as far as is comfortable for you. 

  • Take slow, deep breaths as you hold this position. 

  • Walk your hands back toward your knees and return to an upright position.

The above exercises recommended by Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapists can help relax pelvic floor muscles and reduce symptoms due to pelvic floor muscle tension. 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Causes of Pelvic Floor Tightness

Pelvic floor tightness may be due to many different factors. One common reason is holding tension in your pelvic floor, similar to how some people carry stress in their neck, shoulders, or back. Other factors include frequently delaying urination or bowel movements or injury to your pelvic floor. The health of nearby muscles may play a role, as well. Pelvic floor muscles work closely with your hip, core, and low back muscles. If any of those areas are weak, unstable, or not functioning well, your pelvic floor muscles may need to compensate — which can make them tense and tight.

Signs You Need to Stretch

Symptoms of a tight pelvic floor tend to develop slowly and get worse over time. They may include:

How Pelvic Floor Therapy Helps

Pelvic floor physical therapists will evaluate your symptoms and determine the right exercise therapy plan to best address them. If your pelvic floor muscles are both tight and weak — which is common — PTs will address the tightness first. 

“Trying to strengthen an overly tight muscle could worsen your symptoms,” says Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT, a Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapist. “If you spend all day doing bicep curls, after a while your arm would ache and not work as well. You would need to relax and stretch, or lengthen, the bicep before doing anything else.” The same is true with your pelvic floor muscles, explains Dr. Daroski. PTs can help you lengthen these muscles — with effective pelvic floor stretches — before you strengthen them. 

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a comprehensive treatment that may include exercise, education, behavioral and lifestyle strategies, and manual therapy. 

You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT who specializes in pelvic health via telehealth video visit.

PT Tip: Consistency is Key

“How quickly you get relief from symptoms with pelvic floor stretches depends on a lot of factors, including the severity of your symptoms and how consistent you are with stretching,” says Jacquelyn White, PT, DPT, a Hinge Health pelvic floor physical therapist. “Some people notice improvement within a few days or weeks, while others take longer to see results.” You’ll get relief more quickly if you stay consistent with your stretching routine and communicate regularly with your provider to monitor and adjust your treatment plan, she explains. “Your provider can also help you identify other strategies, like diet, sleep hygiene, and stress management, that can help bring relief.” 

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have pelvic pain or symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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