The word prolapse simply describes the dropping or shifting of an internal organ from its correct position. If the prolapse is of the pelvic organs (bladder, urethra, bowel, rectum, uterus, vagina), it can affect the function and control of your bowel and bladder. You can read more in this article, Types of Prolapse
However, some exercises can improve and prevent the condition and others that add further stress, making the problem worse. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the effects of particular exercises and why they may be a help or a hindrance.
The pelvic floor muscle is key
Supporting the pelvic organs is the pelvic floor, a sling of muscle that attaches to the pubic bone at the front and the coccyx at the back. When this muscle becomes weak or damaged, the support it provides for the organs can be compromised, allowing one or more of them to droop, which in turn, can pull other organs out of place.
Why does the pelvic floor become weak?
Like all muscles, if it’s not exercised, it will become weaker over time.
Other causes of prolapse include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth. The extra weight of pregnancy adds strain to the muscle, which can then be stretched and damaged during a vaginal birth, especially if forceps or other interventions are required
- Being overweight or obese adds more load to the sling
- Chronic coughing, often associated with smoking, places downwardpressure and weakens the muscle
- Persistent constipation that leads to regular straining
- Pelvic injury or surgery
- Repeated lifting of heavy weights – including small children!
- Hormonal changes. Although not conclusive, the reduction of estrogen associated with menopause is thought to contribute to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscle
Exercises that can cause or worsen a prolapse
It makes sense that if downward straining has weakened the pelvic floor, exercises that place the same kind of strain can further weaken the muscle. These include:
- High impact exercises. Called high impact because of the jarring effect experienced when landing, the category consists of running, jumping, some aerobic classes and skipping as well as sports like netball and tennis. All of these add to the load being put on your pelvic floor and should be avoided until it’s gained strength
- Weight lifting. Again, the additional weight and downward pressure will add strain to a weak pelvic floor and could contribute to organs falling out of place
- If you already have a prolapse or a very weak pelvic floor, avoid abdominal exercises like crunches, sit-ups, ‘planking’ and any gym machines designed to exercise these muscles as the pressure they place on your core will push down into your pelvis
Exercises to prevent or improve a prolapse
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscle will eventually allow you to do more strenuous exercise, but in the meantime, take it easy as doing too much too soon, could cause further damage.
- Pelvic floor exercises. These are an absolute must. Many people are unsure about how to even locate the correct muscle, so TENA has a series of easy-to-follow instructional videos that step you through the process, from beginners to intermediate and even a master class
- Low impact exercises. Any activity that doesn’t have the ‘jarring’ effect described above is low impact. This includes walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics and sports such as bowls or croquet, which are all suitable if you have a weak or damaged pelvic floor
Seek professional advice
If you suspect a prolapse, you must see your doctor to get a full assessment and treatment that’s best suited to your circumstances, which could include an insert, exercise or surgery.
And if you’re struggling with the pelvic floor exercises, ask your doctor for a referral to a continence physiotherapist who’ll be able to assist you with the correct technique as well as tailor an exercise program to suit your needs and preferences.
In addition to causing a prolapse, a weak pelvic floor can reduce your ability to ‘hold on’ when you have the urge to urinate, pass wind or a bowel motion. If you are experiencing any involuntary leakage, you may feel more comfortable with the security of an absorbent, disposable product while you’re getting your pelvic floor back into shape.
The TENA range includes super small TENA Liners, an extensive range of TENA Pads and TENA Pants that looks and feel just like regular underwear. All are designed to handle the thinner, faster flow of a weak bladder to keep you dry and odour-free.
Check out the TENA Product Finder Tool, and Free Samples to find the product that best suits your needs.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.