by Dr. Ashley Newton PT, DPT
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the pelvic area does not adequately support the pelvic organs above. The ability to support is based on connective tissue, nerve functioning, and pelvic floor and core muscle strength and coordination. Pelvic organ prolapse can often create bothersome symptoms for people including heaviness in the pelvis, low back and pelvic pain, difficulty emptying with urination, and bulging at the vaginal opening. Oftentimes, people with pelvic organ prolapse are nervous about how and if they can participate in exercise. The answer is resoundingly yes! Specific exercise and pelvic floor training can help reduce and manage the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. However, there are a few things to consider and keep an eye out for when exercising to avoid exacerbation of symptoms.
- With lifting: Always lift with a neutral spine and get the object close to your body. Rounding the back and head places downward pressure on the pelvic organs. When the back and head are neutral, we are better able to use the core and pelvic floor and the deep core musculature is able to support the pelvic organs.
- Avoid holding your breath: Think about it this way – if you hold your breath, you hold all that pressure and air in your body. That pressure is pressing down on the pelvic organs!! Keep breathing through exercise and if you find that you are tempted to hold your breath, try modifying the exercise or pose.
- Modify high-impact activities: Plyometrics (jumping), running, etc. – result in increased load on our bodies. When we run, our body absorbs 2-4x the body’s weight as force. That is a lot for the body to manage and if the body is already having trouble supporting pelvic organs with lighter activities, it can make symptoms worse. Lower impact activities reduce the stress on the core and pelvic floor and also give people the opportunity to slow down and focus on their posture.
- POSTURE, POSTURE, POSTURE: I can’t say it enough! Your skull should be stacked over your rib cage over your pelvis. This optimizes how our tissues and muscles co-contract to support the spine. In this posture, we avoid pressuring the pelvis and can lift and support the pelvic organs better.
- Don’t ignore your shoulder girdle!!! Your shoulder girdle is part of your core. It is what allows the rib cage to sit over the pelvis. Those muscles need strengthening so that we can keep the trunk upright throughout the day without rounding and pressurizing into the pelvic floor.
As always, if you have questions regarding pelvic health, exercise, and/or pelvic organ prolapse specifically, it may be helpful to contact a pelvic health professional (i.e. physician, pelvic health physical therapist) for clarity and information. Check out my clinic’s Instagram @activcoreprinceton_pelvic for all things pelvic health and check out pelvic PTs in your area. Pelvicrehab.com is a directory of pelvic rehab practitioners searchable by zip code!