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Popsugar Features Heather Jeffcoat
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butt clenching

Butt Clenching: Understanding the Causes and Solutions

In my interview at PopSugar, writer Gabrielle Kassel asked, "Are You a Butt Clencher?", and she contacted me about the topic's relation to pelvic health. Here is an overview of the subject along with solutions to improve the condition, with a link to the full article below.
- Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

As a physical therapist specializing in pelvic-floor physical therapy, it is crucial to address the issue of butt clenching, which can lead to various musculature issues and discomfort.

In this article, we will explore the different types of butt clenching, the reasons behind its occurrence, and effective strategies to overcome this habit.

Butt clenching refers to two distinct pelvic-floor positions known as "the true clench" and "butt tucking." The true clench involves an overly contracted state of the glute muscles, while butt tucking refers to a posterior pelvic tilt.

"Having a pelvic tilt can contribute to the weakness of deep core muscles, causing other muscle groups like the glutes to overly engage to do the job.” - Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

These positions often occur simultaneously and can lead to a range of physical symptoms. Butt clenching is commonly caused by prolonged standing or sitting positions, incorrect exercise techniques, and as a protective response to trauma. It can result in back pain, urinary urgency, constipation, and painful penetration. However, butt clenching can be addressed through increased awareness, posture correction, warm-up exercises, yoga, and targeted attention to the glute muscles.

Causes of Butt Clenching

Prolonged standing or sitting positions: Individuals who spend long hours in static positions may develop a posterior pelvic tilt or a slumped-over posture. An example I mention in the article is when one’s core muscles are fatigued, they can begin to sit with their back rolled back toward their tailbone. Repetition of these positions leads to butt clenching.

Incorrect exercise techniques: Athletes who engage their core excessively during workouts may inadvertently clench their glute muscles, resulting in butt clenching.

Trauma response: In the article, I mention:

People can also begin butt clenching as a protective response to physical or emotional trauma.” Survivors of abuse or individuals who recently gave birth may exhibit butt clenching as a protective response to physical or emotional trauma. 

Negative Effects of Butt Clenching

Muscular issues: Butt clenching can cause an overactive pelvic floor, leading to back pain, anterior hip or groin pain, and an increased risk of urinary urgency and frequency.

Altered movement patterns: Butt clenching can shorten the glute muscles and affect movement during activities such as sitting, walking, running, and hinging.

Identifying Butt Clenching

Self-assessment: Observing one's posture from the side, checking for lower back curvature, locked knees and hips, and squeezing in the glutes can indicate butt clenching.

Clothing fit: Wrinkles or creases below the buttocks in non-workout attire may suggest butt clenching.

Strategies to Overcome Butt Clenching

"The first step to stop butt clenching is to increase your awareness of tension in this area. Even though it's occurring subconsciously, once you are made aware, you can take steps to change it to reduce your pain and improve your daily and sexual function." - Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Consult a pelvic floor physical therapist: Working with a professional can help assess individual movement patterns, musculature, and symptoms to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Correct posture: Seeking guidance from a physical therapist specializing in postural alignment can improve standing posture, increase body awareness, and enhance hamstring and glute flexibility.

Warm-up exercises: Prioritize dynamic warm-up routines that activate and stretch the glutes, hamstrings, and hips before engaging in physical activity.

Yoga practice: Under the guidance of an experienced instructor, yoga can help reverse the effects of butt clenching by focusing on proper alignment and avoiding compensatory movements.

Mindful attention: Regularly bringing attention to the glute muscles and consciously releasing tension through specific exercises can help unlearn the habit of butt clenching.

Conclusion

Butt clenching, whether due to prolonged standing or sitting, incorrect exercise techniques, or trauma response, can lead to various musculoskeletal issues and discomfort. However, with increased awareness, posture correction, warm-up exercises, yoga, and targeted attention to the glute muscles, individuals can overcome this habit and alleviate associated symptoms. By working with pelvic-floor therapists and implementing the suggested strategies, individuals can improve their daily and sexual function while reducing pain and discomfort caused by butt clenching.

Our highly trained and caring group of pelvic health physical therapists at Femina Physical Therapy can help you on your journey to improve and strengthen these muscles - tailoring an exercise routine specific to your needs. Our therapists also assess your body as a whole and take into account other injuries or pain you may have to integrate into your routine. Connect with us today and initiate this empowering conversation!

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Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has been such an answer to prayer, i'm so glad I found them! I've been struggling with vaginismus my whole life, but didn't have a name for it until about 6 or 7 months ago. Even once I did have a name for it though, I didn't know where to begin in getting help. My OB/GYN had me get a set of dilators, but I couldn't even insert the smallest one by myself. Most times I tried I just ended up frustrated and in tears. I felt really alone, like I was broken and didn't have the energy to keep trying. When I got engaged a few months ago though, I realized I needed to get answers so i wasn't dreading my honeymoon.

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Testimonial by M.N., age 28

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

I was diagnosed with vaginismus 4 years ago. I never heard of such medical condition until after I got married. At first my husband and I didn't know what to do, we didn't know what the issues were or how to overcome it. Being born and raised in Armenia and being Christian I wasn't that open about talking to sex with others and so it wasn't easy to seek help. But eventually I went to an Ob-Gyn and luckily she knew about the medical condition (not many doctors know). She referred me to a physical therapist and I couldn't believe it and thought it's something I can handle myself. I ordered a kit from vaginismus.com and started practicing with dilators. There was some small progress but wasn't much helpful.

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Testimonial by A.B.

Before I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat I was living in a nightmare. I had been married to my husband for three years and I was suffering from Vaginismus. That all changed when I visited my OBGYN and she said she knew of someone with a great success rate. To be honest I was hesitant at first because my first doctor had already told me that all I needed to do was order dilators from the internet and I should overcome my problem. She was wrong because I had followed the book on how to use the dilators with absolutely no advancements in my condition. However, that all changed when I went in for my first visit and Heather took the time to explain my condition and how we were going to work together to overcome it.

I remember leaving her office with a glimmer of hope that I could live a normal life. As my sessions continued I began to see immediate results. With only four sessions and a strict dedication to my home programs I was cured of Vaginismus. In the beginning of this process I was made aware that my health insurance company might not cover the costs, which was disappointing but today I can say one hundred percent that it was the best money I ever spent. Now thanks to Heather I am finally enjoying my life to the fullest with my husband. Thank you Heather, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate all that you have done for me. I will never forget it. Those who are suffering from these types of conditions don’t be afraid because she makes you feel so comfortable and the end result is worth it. Good luck to you all and I hope you experience the success I have.
-- A.B.

Testimonial by S.S., age 54

Heather is the best! I saw her today for terrible hip/groin pain. I was so impressed with the safety measures in place and felt completely safe . Thanks for the healing hands.

S.S., age 54

Testimonial by Fritzette H.

I went to Heather after the birth of my third child. It was lucky, really, that I was referred to her, because my doctor had referred me to a surgeon for a possible hysterectomy or pelvic wall rebuild. Thankfully, I went to Heather before undergoing either surgery, she was able to fix the problem. She has studied extensively in women's health--even written a book about it--and was able to diagnose my problem, suggest a course of treatment (6 weeks), and then follow through with said treatment. By the end, as she said, I was as good as gold. Boy, was it worth it! Though uncomfortable to talk about, much less write about, it is worth getting the word out there. If you have painful intercourse, especially after birth or other trauma, the treatment may be as simple as Physical Therapy (with Heather, of course). I highly recommend her.

-- Fritzette H., 3/24/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

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