Lengthen Before You Strengthen: Pelvic Health Stretches
For a muscle to be healthy, it has to be strong and flexible. What’s more, the health of nearby muscles matters, too. When it comes to your pelvic floor muscles, hip or core strength can be important in your treatment plan.
Think of your pelvic floor, hip, and core muscles like a team of coworkers at your job. If one person isn’t doing their part, you take on some of their tasks. This makes you stressed and overworked. Similarly, when your core or hip muscles are weak, your pelvic floor works overtime. It may get tense and tight. This makes it harder for your pelvic floor to perform its main job well, which can cause symptoms like incontinence and pelvic pain.
This is why it’s important to do the following exercises, which stretch the muscles surrounding your pelvis. It’s another reason pelvic floor physical therapy is more than just Kegels, which help strengthen a weak pelvic floor muscle. You have to lengthen before you strengthen to make sure you’re not neglecting muscles that surround your pelvic floor.
Do these periodically throughout your day. You can always change the repetitions and hold times to adapt these for your goals and comfort level.
Deep Squat/Prayer Pose
Position yourself into a deep squat supported against the wall so that your lower and mid back are resting against a wall behind you.
Place your elbows on the inside of your knees to create a passive stretch in your inner thighs and perineum (the area between your anus and genitals) into your pelvic floor.
This is a good opportunity for diaphragmatic breathing. Take 10 deep, diaphragmatic breaths while relaxing your pelvic floor. (It should feel like trying to discreetly pass gas.)
For more information on deep breathing techniques, ask your coach or physical therapist for our resource Diaphragmatic Breathing: How It Helps Your Pelvic Health.
Glute Stretch on Back
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.
Hip Flexor Stretch
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 there.
Hold for 15 (or more) seconds and then return to the starting position.
Repeat two to three times on each side.
These stretching exercises are part of a balanced pelvic floor physical therapy program. Optimal pelvic health requires strength, flexibility, and mobility. These are great for flexibility and mobility.
Check with your coach or physical therapist for additional strength-based exercises to fit your individual needs.
For optimal pelvic floor muscle health, your hips and core also need to be flexible and strong.
Your pelvic floor may be compensating for weakness in nearby muscles, which can cause tightness and tension and lead to symptoms like incontinence and pain.
A well-rounded pelvic floor program is more than just Kegels. It includes stretches for nearby muscles, such as deep squats, Figure 4/glute stretches, and hip flexor stretches