Physical Therapy Exercises for Pelvic Floor Prolapse

Pelvic floor prolapse, also known as POP (pelvic organ prolapse), is when the muscles and ligaments that provide support and stability to the pelvis are weakened, resulting in a downwards collapse of the pelvic organs. These organs include the bladder, bowel, and uterus. When these organs collapse in the vagina, they create a bulge in the vaginal canal. This is known as a prolapse. This is an extremely common issue, with research highlighting that around “one-quarter of U.S women are affected by pelvic floor disorders.” One of the most common dysfunctions is pelvic floor prolapse, affecting around 40% of women from 60-79 and 50% aged 80 or older, to some degree. The condition can be painful, uncomfortable, and impact day-to-day life. Some examples of symptoms include urinary and/or bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction, inability to complete the desired physical activity, and lower back discomfort. A pelvic floor prolapse can occur as a result of anything that puts the abdominal region under significant pressure. This could include pregnancy, respiratory issues, smoking, excess weight in the region, severe constipation, surgery in the area, and some forms of pelvic organ cancers. In some rarer cases, a woman with pelvic floor prolapse may present limited or no symptoms and it is only via a pelvic floor examination that the issue can be identified. 

Can you fix a prolapse with pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor physical therapy including individually tailored, needs-specific exercise prescription can reduce the symptoms for the patient significantly. There is research to support this statement which emphasizes the pelvic floor muscle strength gains the patient can achieve when participating in the targeted pelvic floor exercise, which can prevent issues occurring in the future. In a pelvic floor examination, the physical therapist will seek out the cause, origin, elements contributing to symptoms, and the level of treatment and rehabilitation the patient may need. From here, exercise prescription can occur. 

This will likely involve exercises that train and re-train the abdominal muscle region, including lower-abdominals and “core”. This will address strength and mobility issues in the hip, pelvis, and spine (lumbopelvic region). The physical therapist will also address pelvic floor weaknesses and postural dysfunction including sub-optimal breathing patterns. 

Can you reverse a prolapse with exercise?

If a pelvic floor prolapse is caused by excess weight in the abdominal region, exercise prescription that is tailored to the needs of the patient is a significant part of a treatment plan. Not only will this strengthen the necessary muscles and ligaments in the pelvic floor region and surrounding areas, but it will prevent the possibility of a prolapse re-occurring.  Maintaining a healthy weight is an essential factor in preventing pelvic floor dysfunctions. Future pelvic floor prolapse can be prevented by maintaining a strong pelvic floor region. This can be addressed with pelvic floor physical therapy. It is all about retraining the pelvic floor muscles to provide support to the internal pelvic floor tissues and organs. 

It is important to note that a pelvic floor physical therapist may suggest new forms of exercises that stray away from heavy lifting and certain kinds of physical activity that actually increase prolapse symptoms.

How can I reverse prolapse naturally?

Most pelvic floor prolapse will not alleviate naturally. There is a reason why the prolapse occurred, and it is important to address the internal musculoskeletal issues to prevent the worsening of the issue or future complications. A pelvic floor physical therapist will come up with a suitable treatment plan that aligns with the needs of the patient. It could be as simple as losing weight via specific exercise prescription, correcting posture, modifying non-ideal lifestyle factors, integrating a pelvic floor strengthening routine, or educating the patient on bladder and bowel emptying techniques. A treatment plan may involve some forms of manual therapy, including self-releases. You can now receive individually tailored, one-on-one pelvic floor prolapse treatment with a qualified physical therapist from the comfort of your home. Head over to Pelvic Floor Pro to learn more about telehealth for pelvic floor treatment. 

How do you fix a prolapse without surgery?

In cases of prolapse that are on the moderate to severe scale, significant damage to the surrounding tissue as well as the muscles could have occurred. In some very severe cases and those individuals at risk of multiple prolapses, surgery may be recommended. The procedure is called sacrocolpopexy as Harvard Health explains,  in which “small incisions in the abdomen” are made to “reposition the pelvic organs”. Surgical treatment also addresses issues associated with damaged tissues or organs as a result of the prolapse. 

However, almost all pelvic floor prolapse can be treated with pelvic floor physical therapy. Avoiding surgery is often the best route for most women. Research shows that for mild cases of pelvic floor prolapse, a tailored program of strengthening exercises can have success rates of up to 80% in reducing symptoms and preventing further complications. An optimal pelvic floor physical therapy plan will integrate a treatment plan based on the severity aligned with the patient’s personal goals, physical ability, and life situation. It is not a considerably life-threatening condition yet it can significantly impact the individual’s quality of life if the symptoms are anywhere from mild to severe. 

What happens if prolapse is left untreated?

An untreated pelvic floor prolapse can cause complications in the future, including with exercise, childbirth, sexual functioning, breathing patterns, skeletal alignment including postural control,  and potentially sustained considerable discomfort in day-to-day life. The increased pressure on the pelvic region means that the individual will be unable to move optimally from a biomechanical standpoint, as they cannot engage crucial muscles in the body to carry out specific tasks.