There are several causes of a tight pelvic floor. Similar to how one clenches their jaw muscles and gets headaches while stressed, the pelvic floor can also be a focal point for stress or anxiety. Other reasons for clenching include weak muscles, poor posture, childbirth, or a sedentary lifestyle, and certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), vulvodynia, or endometriosis (via Cleveland Clinic).
Unlike the muscles in the rest of the body, it can be difficult to tell if you are clenching the muscles of the pelvic floor unless you recognize the signs. If you continuously contract your pelvic floor muscles, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you may experience pain or discomfort in your pelvis, hips, and lower back. Some individuals may also feel tightness or pain around the vaginal opening, while others may feel it closer to the anus. You may even feel a cramping sensation in the pelvis, similar to menstrual cramps.
Long-term clenching, or a hypertonic pelvic floor, can also result in more serious symptoms, such as difficulty urinating, constipation, and pain during sex (via Embrace Physiotherapy). The pelvic floor is involved in bladder control, so if your muscles are already clenched then they're unable to further contract to control the muscles of the bladder, which results in pelvic floor dysfunction. In such cases, performing Kegels is not recommended as it can lead to further discomfort.