Posts Tagged ‘pelvic floor tension myalgia’

Ouch…Male Pain Down Below: What You Need To Know

February 2, 2019

Andrew Siegel MD  2/2/2019

Pelvic floor tension myalgia is often the root cause of many common “male problems,”  yet remains a mysterious, misunderstood, misdiagnosed and mistreated condition. 

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“Chronic prostatitis” is a frequently bandied about term–a diagnosis tagged to a variety of different conditions having in common discomfort or pain perceived in the pelvic, groin, genital and perineal (“taint”) regions. It is often considered to be a “wastebasket” diagnosis, a diagnostic consideration after other processes are ruled out.  Chronic prostatitis is a term as commonly used by the urologist as “irritable bowel syndrome” is by the gastroenterologist.  In chronic prostatitis the prostate is treated as the source of the pelvic pain, but the truth of the matter is that the prostate is rarely the source.

The term “itis” refers to infection or inflammation of the organ in question… but 90%  of men diagnosed with “chronic prostatitis” do not have an infected or inflamed prostate gland! What many actually have is tension myalgia of the pelvic floor muscles, a condition in which the pelvic floor muscles are tense, spastic and hyper-contractile. Essentially, this is a “headache” or “Charley horse” of the pelvis driven by spastic pelvic floor muscles.


Tension myalgia is an unrelaxed state of muscle tone, similar to a fist clenched tightly

Muscle tension anywhere in the body is not a favorable state of affairs.  (I sometimes get muscle spasms in my neck muscles that causes a tension headache that requires ibuprofen, a heating pad and massaging to relieve.  However, the neck is not a terrible place for muscle spasm, certainly minor compared to the pelvis.)  The pelvis is a particularly unfortunate place for spastic muscles because it is home to urinary, sexual and bowel function.  The pelvic floor muscles form the floor of the pelvis (and the floor of the “core” group of muscles) and have openings for the urinary and intestinal tracts that pass through these muscles, so you can imagine how tension and spasm may affect the function of these systems.

This spasticity of these muscles makes one feel that their pelvic muscles are “tied in a knot.” The resulting pain is often perceived in the genitals, lower urinary tract, and rectal/anal areas, and accompanying the pain are often adverse effects on sexual, urinary, and bowel function.  The situation can give rise to voiding difficulties (difficulty starting or emptying, poor quality stream, post-void dribbling), overactive bladder (urgency, frequency, urgency incontinence), erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction (premature ejaculation, painful ejaculation, reduced ejaculatory strength), and bowel difficulties (constipation, hemorrhoids, fissure, etc.).

What causes this situation of taut and spastic pelvic floor muscles?  The answer is  anything that can give rise to muscle tension anywhere else in the body, some of the key triggers being stress and anxiety.  Stress and anxiety “turned inward” is thought to trigger dysfunction of the nerve pathway that regulates muscle tone.

Characteristically, the pain of pelvic floor tension myalgia waxes and wanes in intensity over time and wanders to different locations in the pelvis, possibly involving the lower abdomen, groin, pubic area, penis, scrotum, testicles, perineum, anus, rectum, hips, and lower back. The pain is often described as “stabbing” in quality and can be provoked by urination, bowel movements or sexual activity/ejaculation or even activities including driving a car or wearing tight clothing.

Because of the variable, vague and “wandering” manifestations of this condition, patients often have difficulty in precisely articulating their symptoms, although they usually have a fairly long list of issues, numerous prior interventions and have seen many physicians.  After identifying this condition in a number of patients, in retrospect it seems to be an obvious diagnosis.  To make the diagnosis, it is vital to take a careful history and do a tailored physical exam, which includes an evaluation for “trigger points” of the pelvic floor muscles that, when examined, cause tremendous pain.

The patient profile of a man suffering with this condition is often predictable. A thirty-something or forty-something, well-dressed male with excellent posture and a type A personality (competitive, ambitious, organized, impatient, etc.) presents with vague pelvic pain symptoms that he has difficulty in describing. In addition to the pain he often notes urinary, rectal, erectile and ejaculatory issues. He usually has a professional, high-level, stressful occupation and his physical appearance and body language is “tight,” paralleling the tone of his pelvic floor muscles. He tends to be “driven” and have a compulsive, controlling and disciplined personality and typically exercises on a regular basis and is in good physical shape. He has been evaluated by numerous urologists and has been treated with many courses of prolonged antibiotics (to minimal benefit) and has been labeled as having chronic prostatitis. He is often miserable and perhaps at wits end because of having endured years of episodic pain. He is worried and emotionally stressed about his pain. It is not uncommon to discover that the pain seemed to be precipitated by a situation deemed to be a personal failure such as involvement in a divorce, loss of a job or other event. On digital rectal exam, he has very tight anal tone and has tenderness, spasticity and often knots that can be felt within the levator ani muscles, similar to the tension knots that can develop in one’s back muscles.

The current theory is that this chronically over-contracted group of muscles is a manifestation of stress and anxiety turned inwards, a classic example of the mind-body connection in action. This state of chronic “over-vigilance” seemingly serves the purpose of guarding and protecting the genital and rectal regions. When anxiety expresses itself through tension in the pelvic floor, the physical tension further contributes to the emotional anxiety and stress, which creates a vicious cycle.  The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for tail wagging in canines and tension myalgia of the pelvic floor parallels what a frightened dog does when it pulls its tail between its legs, protecting the genital and anal regions.

Conventional urologic practice is nuts-and-bolts-mechanistic–slow to accept the concept that stress and other psychosocial factors can give rise to genuine urological conditions–and has a dismissive attitude towards psychosomatic symptoms.   However, an understanding of the issue of tension myalgia of the pelvic floor muscles is slowly gaining traction and recognition and in 2019 we are approaching a tipping point in which this type of diagnosis is a more frequent consideration in those men presenting with pelvic pain.

To manage tension myalgia, it is necessary to relax the spastic pelvic floor muscles and untie the “knots.” There are a variety of means of doing so, including relaxation techniques, stretching, hot baths, massage, and muscle relaxants. Many men respond well to physical therapy sessions with skilled pelvic physiotherapists who are capable of trigger point therapy, which involves compressing, massaging and elongating the knotted and spastic muscles.

Those who are so inclined can treat themselves with a therapeutic internal trigger point release rectal wand that aims to eliminate/mitigate the knots. This treatment is referred to as the Stanford pelvic pain protocol or alternatively, the Wise-Anderson protocol (designed by David Wise, a psychologist, Rodney Anderson, a urologist, and Tim Sawyer, a physiotherapist).

When used judiciously, pelvic floor muscle training programs can be of benefit to patients suffering with this condition.  Pelvic training serves to instill awareness of and develop proficiency in relaxing the pelvic muscles (as opposed to more typical purpose of such a program, which is strength and endurance training.)

Bottom Line: The diagnosis of pelvic floor muscle tension myalgia should be a primary consideration for all men presenting with pelvic pain. Physical interventions can be extremely helpful in alleviating the pain and untying the pelvic floor “knots.” By making the proper diagnosis and providing pain relief, the vicious cycle of anxiety/pain can be broken.

For a wonderful reference, consult: Dr. Wise and Anderson’s book, A Headache in the Pelvis: A New Understanding and Treatment for Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndromes.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted weekly. To receive a free subscription with delivery to your email inbox visit the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, the largest urology practice in the United States.

Dr. Siegel is the author of 5 books: FINDING YOUR OWN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Health, Wellness, Fitness and Longevity

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health

 and hot off the press is PROSTATE CANCER 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page 

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July 9, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD 7/9/16

A “myth” is a widely held but false belief or idea. With respect to Kegel pelvic floor exercises, there are many such myths in existence. The goal of this entry is to straighten out these false notions and misconceptions and provide indisputable truths and facts about pelvic floor exercises. Much of this entry is excerpted from my new book THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health. (


(attribution Nevit Dilmen, 2015)


Myth 1: The best way to do Kegels is to stop the flow of urine.

Fact: If you can stop your stream, it is proof that you are contracting the proper muscles. However, this is just a means of feedback to reinforce that you are employing the pelvic floor muscles. The bathroom should not be your Kegel gymnasium!

Myth 2: Do Kegel exercises as often as possible.

Fact: Kegel exercises strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles and like other muscle-conditioning routines should not be performed every day. Kegel exercises should be done in accordance with a structured plan of progressively more difficult and challenging exercises that require rest periods in order for optimal muscle growth and response.  Three to four times weekly is sensible. 

Myth 3: Do Kegels anywhere (stopped at a red light, waiting in line at the supermarket, while watching television, etc.).

Fact: Exercises of the pelvic floor muscles—like any other form of exercise—demand attention, mindfulness and isolation of the muscle group. Until you are able to master the exercise regimen, it is best that the exercises be performed in an appropriate venue, free of distraction, which allows single-minded focus and concentration. This is not to say that once you achieve mastery of the exercises and a fit pelvic floor that you should not integrate the exercises into activities of daily living. That, in fact, is one of the goals.

Myth 4: The best way to do a Kegel contraction is to squeeze your PFM as hard as possible.

Fact: A good quality Kegel contraction cycles the pelvic floor muscles through a full range of motion from maximal relaxation to maximal contraction. The relaxation element is as critical as the contraction element. As vital as “tone and tighten” are, “stretch and lengthen” are of equal importance. The goal is for pelvic muscles that are strong, toned, supple and flexible.

Myth 5: Keeping the Kegel muscles tightly contracted all the time is desirable.

Fact: This is not a good idea. The pelvic muscles have a natural resting tone to them and when you are not actively engaging and exercising them, they should be left to their own natural state. “Tight” is not the same as “strong.” There exists a condition—pelvic floor muscle tension myalgia—in which there is spasticity, extreme tightness and pain due to excessive tension of these muscles.

Myth 6: Focusing on your core muscles is sufficient to ensure Kegel fitness.

Fact: No. The Kegel muscles are the floor of the “core” group of muscles and get a workout whenever the core muscles are exercised. However, for maximal benefit, focus needs to be placed specifically on the Kegel muscles. In Pilates and yoga, there is an emphasis on the core muscles and a collateral benefit to the pelvic muscles, but this is not enough to achieve the full potential fitness of a regimen that isolates and intensively exercises the Kegel muscles.

Myth 7: Kegel exercises do not help.

Fact: Oh yes they do! Kegel exercises have been medically proven to help a variety of pelvic maladies including pelvic relaxation, sexual dysfunction and urinary and bowel incontinence. Additionally, pelvic training will improve core strength and stability, posture and spinal alignment.

Myth 8: Kegels are only helpful after a problem arises.

Fact: No, no, no. As in any exercise regimen, the best option is to be proactive and not reactive. It is sensible to optimize muscle mass, strength and endurance to prevent problems from surfacing before they have an opportunity to do so. Kegel exercises pursued before getting pregnant will aid in preventing pelvic issues that may arise as a consequence of pregnancy, labor and delivery. If you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles when you are young, you can help avoid pelvic, urinary and bowel conditions that may arise as you age. Strengthen and tone now and your body will thank you later.

Myth 9: You can stop doing Kegels once your muscles strengthen.

Fact: Not true…the “use it or lose it” principle applies here as it does in any muscle-training regimen. Just as muscles adapt positively to the stresses and resistances placed upon them, so they adapt negatively to a lack of stresses and resistances. “Disuse atrophy” is a possibility with all muscles, including the Kegel muscles. “Maintenance” Kegels should be used after completing a course of pelvic muscle training.

Myth 10: It is easy to learn how to isolate and exercise the Kegel muscles.

Fact: Not the case at all. A high percentage of women who think they are doing Kegel exercises properly are actually contracting other muscles or are bearing down and straining instead of drawing up and in. However, with a little instruction and effort you can become the master of your pelvic domain.

(Note well: During June office visits I saw a nurse practitioner, a personal trainer and a physical therapist in consultation for pelvic issues.  None of them knew how to properly contract their pelvic muscles and needed to be instructed…and these are people in the know!)

Myth 11: Kegels are bad for your sex life.

Fact: Just the opposite! Kegels improve sexual function as the pelvic muscles play a critical role in genital blood flow and lubrication, vaginal tone, clitoral erection and orgasm. Kegels will enhance your sex life and his as well. A strong pelvic floor will enable you to “hug” his penis as energetically as you can hug his body with your arms!

Myth 12: Kegels are just for women.

Fact: Au contraire…men have essentially the same pelvic muscles as do women and can reap similar benefits from Kegels with respect to pelvic, sexual, urinary and bowel health. For more information on this topic, refer to Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health (

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at

Author page on Amazon:

Apple iBook:

Trailer for The Kegel Fix:  

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD. 

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount. 

Vaginal Tone: How Tight Is Right?

June 11, 2016

Andrew Siegel, M.D.   6/10/16


The strength and firmness of the vagina is largely determined by the strength and tone of the pelvic floor muscles .  As a urologist who treats many female pelvic problems, questions about vaginal tightness and tone are not infrequently raised by concerned patients.  It is important to distinguish strength from tone.  A condition exists in which the pelvic floor muscles are tight and over-toned (“hypertonic”), yet weak, inflexible and with an impaired ability to relax after a contraction.  This is a pathological condition of the pelvic floor muscles which can give rise to pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction and numerous other symptoms.

The Effect of Vaginal Delivery

The most compelling factor affecting vaginal form is vaginal childbirth.  A recent article from the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Kamisian et al, 2015; 122:867-872) studied the relationship between childbirth and vaginal dimensions in women presenting with urinary control issues and pelvic organ prolapse. The average measurement of the vaginal opening (obtained upon abdominal straining) was 29 cm² in women who had vaginal deliveries versus 21.5 cm² in women who had not delivered vaginally. Having more than one child did not further increase the size of the vaginal opening in a significant way. Bottom Line: The researchers concluded that there are clearly anatomical differences present in women who have delivered vaginally versus those who have not and that most of the stretching effect of vaginal childbirth is related to the first delivery.

 The Vagina: A Mysterious But Amazing Place

Trivia: The word “vagina” derives from the Latin word for “sheath,” a cover for the blade of a knife or sword. The word “penis” derives from the Latin word for “tail.”

Although for many people–both women and men–the vagina is a dark and mysterious place, it is impressive how versatile and multifunctional an organ it is. The vagina wears many “hats,” functioning as an entryway for the penis during sexual intercourse, an inflow pathway and receptacle for semen, an outflow pathway for menstruation and a birth canal. The elasticity of the vagina is extraordinary, with an astonishing ability to stretch to accommodate a baby’s head and then return to a relatively normal caliber. That stated, pregnancy, labor and delivery–particularly vaginal deliveries of large babies–has the potential to profoundly affect the anatomy and function of the vagina and its supportive pelvic muscles.  Although not inevitable, this can result in vaginal laxity (looseness) and other pelvic floor dysfunctions including pelvic organ prolapse (dropped bladder and other pelvic organs), stress urinary incontinence (urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing and physical exertion) and sexual issues.

Trivia: Elective C-section (no labor) is generally protective against vaginal laxity, whereas emergency C-section (after prolonged labor) is equally as potentially damaging to the vaginal support system as is vaginal delivery.

Is Your Vagina Toned/Tight Enough?

If you have ever wondered if your vagina is toned enough and how it might compare with others, you are by no means alone. Like penis size for men, this can be a source of concern and anxiety for many women. A “fit” vagina and pelvic floor is a desirable physical attribute, correlating with youthful vitality, better sexual function for women and their partners and less risk for pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

Trivia: Leonardo Da Vinci observed that while women generally desire the size of a man’s genitals to be as large as possible, men typically desire the opposite for a woman’s genitals.

Vaginal tone is strongly impacted by the strength and tone of the pelvic floor (Kegel) muscles, but is also influenced by the strength and tone of the muscle layers of the vagina itself. Vaginas come in all sizes and shapes and run the gamut from being very snug to very loose. The vast majority of vaginas are between these too extremes,  “toned sufficiently.” On one extreme, the vagina and pelvic muscles can be so snug that the vagina cannot be penetrated, a medical condition known as vaginismus, which can be a devastating physical and emotional problem. It is an extreme form of pelvic floor tension myalgia, a pelvic pain syndrome referred to earlier resulting from pelvic floor muscles that are chronically over-tensioned. Extremely narrow and tight vaginas are also common in the elderly population that is not sexually active, on the basis of disuse atrophy and the lack of hormone stimulation that accompanies menopause.

On the other hand, the vagina, pelvic floor muscles and other connective tissue support can be so lax that the vagina gapes open, allowing one or more of the pelvic organs to fall into the space of the vagina and at times, outside of the vagina. This can also give rise to other pelvic issues having to do with sexual function and urinary/bowel control. Laxity can lead to difficulties with retaining the penis with vaginal intercourse, retaining tampons and in achieving orgasm.  Vaginal laxity can also result in the vagina filling up with water while bathing and vaginal passage of air (vaginal flatulence). The perception of having a loose vagina can lead to self-esteem issues.

 The Role of Vaginal Tone In Sexual Function

To reiterate, vaginal fitness is an important factor in terms of sexual function and is largely determined by pelvic floor muscle strength and tone. Vaginal laxity is caused by weakened pelvic muscles, vaginal muscles and connective tissue that no longer provide optimal vaginal support. Women with a lax vagina who are sexually active may complain of less satisfying sexual intercourse with diminished sensation for themselves and their partners with an impairment in “accommodating” the penis, with the vagina “surrounding” the penis rather than firmly “squeezing” it.

Under normal circumstances, sexual intercourse results in indirect clitoral stimulation. The clitoral shaft moves rhythmically with penile thrusting by virtue of penile traction on the inner vaginal lips, which join together to form the hood of the clitoris. However, if the vaginal opening is too wide to permit the penis to put sufficient traction on the inner vaginal lips, there can be decreased clitoral stimulation and less satisfaction in the bedroom.

Trivia: George Carlin did a routine about women who have a special gift with the strength, tone and finesse of their vaginas and pelvic floor muscles that I will attempt to paraphrase. He referred to the vaginas of these women as “snapping,” which he defined as “quick muscular control and vaginal elasticity that can grab ahold of you.”  What he was actually describing was women with excellent command of their pelvic floor muscles. 

 So How Tight Is Right?

Dr. Arnold Kegel in the 1940s invented a device called a perineometer that was inserted into the vagina to record the pelvic floor muscle contractile strength.  There are numerous sophisticated measurement devices that exist today.

A simple means is the digital method (a finger in the vagina) to assess your pelvic muscle strength. Do so supine (lying down, face up) with knees bent and slightly parted. Use a hand-held mirror to get a visual of your vulva. The inner vaginal lips should be closed and touching, appearing like a shut clamshell. A sign of vaginal laxity is when the lips are parted like an open clamshell. Another sign of laxity is a reduction in the distance from the bottom part of the vaginal opening to the anus (the perineum). A more severe sign of vaginal laxity is gaping lips with a pink bulge (pelvic organ prolapse) emerging between the lips. Take a look while pushing and straining your abdominal muscles—as if you are pushing out a baby—as a “vaginal stress test.”

Gently place a lubricated finger of one hand in the vagina and contract your pelvic muscles, squeezing around the finger and trying to lift it upwards and inwards, ensuring that you are not contracting your gluteal (butt), rectus (abdomen) or adductor (inner thigh) muscles. Do this by placing your other hand on each of these other muscle groups, in turn, to prove to yourself that these muscles remain relaxed.

Grade your strength using the modified Oxford grading scale, giving yourself a number between 0-5. Note that the Oxford system is what physicians use and it is relatively simple when done regularly by those with experience performing pelvic exams. It is granted that since this assessment is subjective and is not your specialty, you may find it challenging, but do your best, as your goal is to get a general sense of your pelvic strength.

Oxford Grading of Pelvic Strength

0—complete lack of contraction

1—minor flicker

2—weak squeeze (without a circular contraction or inner and upward movement)

3—moderate squeeze (with some inner and upward movement)

4—good squeeze (with moderate inner and upward movement)

5—strong squeeze (with significant inner and upward movement)

What To Do About Vaginal Laxity

If you are unhappy with your vaginal tone, do not despair. Pelvic floor exercises (a.k.a. Kegels) can and will often help improve the situation. Achieving a well-conditioned pelvic floor will optimize vaginal tone, pelvic organ support and sexual, urinary and bowel function as well as positively impact core strength and stability, posture and spinal alignment.

Bottom Line:  A firm and fit vagina is desirable from the standpoint of pelvic, sexual and general health.  Having well-conditioned pelvic floor muscles can help prevent and treat vaginal laxity, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary and bowel control issues as well as contribute to a healthy and enjoyable sex life. Just as you make an effort to keep your external muscles in good shape, It makes sense to apply a similar effort to these important internal muscles.

Please check out the following 3 minute video entitled “Why Kegel?”:

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– and MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health available on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, B&N Nook and Kobo; paperback edition available at

Author page on Amazon:

Apple iBook:

The Kegel Fix trailer:  

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx pelvic floor muscle training DVD. 

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at, an online store home to quality urology products for men and women. Use promo code “UROLOGY10” at checkout for 10% discount.