Going through Pelvic Organ Prolapse is no excuse for lazing about and ignoring your health and fitness. In fact, this is the time that you should be focused on getting yourself back on track.
Now don’t get that twisted, we don’t mean you should be in the gym for hours like you’re training for the apocalypse, we mean you should stick to a workout plan that has your condition in consideration.
So how do you keep fit without making your prolapse worse? The answer to that is in this article. You’ll just have to keep reading to figure it out.
Why not all exercise is a good exercise for prolapse
Well, the reason you’re in this situation is because of weak pelvic floor muscles right?
Pelvic Organ Prolapse happens because the pelvic floor muscles are no longer able to support its organs. This causes them to drop or bulge.
So the best solution to that is to work out long and hard so that these muscles become strong right? WRONG.
Funny enough, working out too hard can cause pelvic organ prolapse in the first place. Remember that the pelvic floor is made up of muscles and all muscles can be strained.
This can be caused by heavy and frequent weight lifting, excessive resistance training and high impact exercises. This is particularly true when there’s no form of abdominal bracing or breathing techniques employed to support the pelvic floor during the exercise.
When diagnosed with prolapse, your doctor will let you know that not all exercise is good exercise. This is simply because of the strain they put on the pelvic floor, especially when the prolapse is in its worse stage or after surgery when the tissues need time to repair.
In the first stage of prolapse where the organ has dropped into the upper part of the vagina, prolapse is mild and can be corrected by kegel exercises . The symptoms here are virtually nonexistent and can include mild discomfort. Strenuous exercise at this stage can worsen prolapse and accelerate its progress to higher stages.
In stage 2, the organ has moved down the vagina, closer to the entrance and it can cause sex to become uncomfortable, increase the frequency of UTIs and even cause incontinence and constipation. At this stage, pessaries are usually given to help hold up the organs and prevent them from dropping any further. Over-exercising will cause this to worsen and can render pessaries useless.
At stage 3 and 4, the organ has fallen to the entrance of the vagina or has fallen completely through its opening. This can cause spotting or bleeding, back pain, incontinence, and even depression.
At these final stages, surgery is the only real fix. After undergoing surgery, it is recommended that women wait at least 6-8 weeks to resume exercise. Failure to comply will result in the pelvic floor muscles not being able to heal high enough or cause repeat prolapse.
What exercises to avoid- How to tell if it’s not good for you
Avoid anything abdominal like a plague during your healing phase since this can quickly undo all your progress. Heavy lifting should also be avoided as this can put a strain on the pelvic floor muscles.
This means that you should stay away from exercises like crunches, wide-legged squats, leg presses, over the shoulder weight lifting and any variations of these. Instead, substitute them for pelvic floor friendly exercises or modify them.
If you feel any sort of pain or discomfort in your pelvic area while doing a certain exercise, then this isn’t an exercise you should do doing. Stop immediately and find an alternative.
If there is no pain at the moment, but afterward you feel discomfort, then the exercise is not good for your pelvic health either.
Having no improvement in your symptoms can also be a good indicator, especially if they get worse. Speak to your doctor about this.
8 Cardio exercises you can try that will help you to lose weight
When you get the all-clear from your doctor to exercise after surgery, or in the early stages of prolapse, you should still stay away from intense, high-impact workouts even if you are trying to shed pounds. There’s another way to do that. This way is by doing low impact cardio.
Cardio is good since it helps to promote heart health, it increases lung capacity, lowers cholesterol and burns calories.
Here are some forms of cardio that can help you to shed fat without straining your pelvic floor muscles:
Yoga is a great way to tone your muscles while promoting full-body relaxation, increasing flexibility, and improving posture.
As it relates to prolapse, yoga’s slow movements and controlled breathing can help to increase pelvic stability without putting too much pressure on the abdomen.
In the same breath, certain poses can indeed contribute to pressure on the pelvic floor and organs and can cause pain and discomfort.
If you are a yoga expert then be mindful of poses such as:
Instead, modify these poses with proper bracing or by keeping one leg on the ground at all times.
If you are new to yoga, be sure to inform your instructor of your condition. This way he/she can adjust the routine accordingly. The Mula Bandha is one such pose that engages the pelvic floor and can help to prevent further prolapse in the early stages.
Since yoga involves a lot of bending and stretching you’ll need to wear something that isn’t too loose but is comfortable at the same time, for instance, a tank top or a comfortable fitting Tshirt that won’t expose you when you try certain poses. You can wear comfortable yoga pants or biker shorts for a full range of motion.
You can try yoga gloves and yoga socks to prevent slips and falls. Try to keep your hair out of your face so you can keep focused on the exercise.
Vinyasa yoga is similar to regular yoga is many ways but is more fast-paced. Here, you’re required to move from one pose to another more seamlessly and more rhythmically, all coordinated with your breathing. You’ll get your heart pumping a whole lot faster with this type of yoga and you’ll work up more of a sweat.
Note that this type of yoga is not very beginner-friendly and will take a bit of work before you can properly do all the moves and keep up with the rest of the class.
If you’re an avid bike rider, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a way you can carry on without causing more damage to your pelvic floor.
The way to do this is by avoiding steep hills where you have to do a lot of legs and abdominal action and stay in flat areas where you aren’t required to exert as much force.
It is not a good idea to cycle every single day and you should give yourself time to rest in between. Limit yourself to once or twice a week for no more than 15 minutes.
To avoid neck and back pain, try high handlebars that promote better posture. Be sure to wear knee pads and a helmet to prevent major injuries from falls. Also, ensure that the saddle is padded to avoid pain, discomfort, and soreness. Stop if you experience pain.
If you don’t have this luxury, try a stationary bike. Spinning is an indoor cycling exercise that is usually done indoors in groups to music. Be sure to communicate with your instructor about what you are comfortable with and your condition since spinning can get intense at times.
Stick to light gears to avoid straining. Do not stand since this can cause downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
If you used to go running in the mornings, try walking. This will afford you all of the pleasures of running, without the high impact.
Start with walking in place at home until you are ready to go outside. When you do, walk around your house at first for a few minutes and gradually increase your duration and distance.
Try to walk in the morning when your pelvic floor isn’t too exhausted from a day’s work. Try to stick to flat surfaces as much as possible and wear comfortable shoes.
Do not stray too far away from home in the beginning since you can start to feel aching and discomfort even after the 6-8 weeks after your surgery has passed. This way, you can turn back home quickly and reduce strain.
While walking can feel like a downgrade, do not try to overcompensate by walking too briskly or pushing yourself to walk really long distances.
Do not wear waist trainers or anything that was designed to sculpt the body as they can increase downward pressure onto the pelvic floor and weaken the core. Always go for comfortable clothing that allows you and your body to breathe.
Pilates was designed to be a low-impact exercise that promotes flexibility, balance, and endurance. Pilates can also help to tone muscles, shed fat, and improve posture.
Pilates target the core, spine, hips and the pelvic floor. However, intense pilates can harm the pelvic floor and will have to be modified to avoid aggravating symptoms.
For instance, strong contractions can cause too much pressure on already weak or loose muscles, causing them to stretch and strain even more. In other cases, over activation can cause the muscles to become too tight and make them unable to relax completely.
Moves such as the hundred, scissors, dead bugs, rolls ups, sit-ups, planks, and pushups are typically great for abdominal toning but are too intense for already weak pelvic floor muscles.
These can be modified by increasing breathing and decreasing the pressure on the abdominal muscles. In certain poses such as the hundred and hamstring, modify by standing. Others that involve lifting legs off the ground can be modified by support with an exercise ball or by keeping the legs closer together. Some, such as roll-ups and sit-ups, that specifically target the abdominals should be avoided altogether.
You can wear the same type of clothing for pilates as you would for yoga since they share many similarities.
Swimming is a great way to get that heart rate up without the high impact. However, swimming can still cause pressure on the pelvic floor when you bear down or contract your abs in the pool.
To counteract this and make swimming prolapse friendly, try to blow bubbles in the water while swimming by using a snorkel. Holding your breath while underwater can cause pressure on the pelvic floor. By using a snorkel, you will be able to control your breathing and lift your pelvic floor.
If you don’t have a snorkel, strick to stokes like breast or backstrokes where you won’t have to hold your breath for too long.
Be sure to kick with long legs from the hips and not from the knees. This will relax your glutes which in turn relaxes the pelvic floor.
You may also try water aerobics. If you do, do it in deep water (above chest) to avoid strain on the pelvic floor. Avoid anything that involves double leg lifts and abdominal contractions. Water walking, backward walking and aide stepping are good exercises for persons who can’t swim.
Please don’t wear your skimpy summer bikini to your water aerobics class. Go with a one piece that won’t ride up when you start to exercise.You should also invest in a good pair of water/pool shoes that help to protect your feet from rough surfaces and potential fungus.
Dance fitness is a good way to shed pounds without compromising pelvic floor health. Low impact dance routines such as ballroom, western, Latin, country and belly dancing are good since they don’t place too much strain on the pelvic floor.
Zumba is high intensity but can be modified to make it prolapse friendly. Modify dance moves that involve jumping or high knee raises with a side step or forward step. Turn wide-leg squats into slightly bends with feet closer together. When it comes on to diagonal moves, do them at a slower pace or move just your arms or legs in a step. Do not twist the entire body. If you find that you are holding your breath or become tired too quickly, slow things down and remember to breathe.
Barre is a type of exercise that combines elements of ballet, pilates, yoga and strength training. Its low impact, high-intensity approach to exercise helps to increase flexibility, strengthen the core, improve posture and tone the entire body.
The good thing about barre is that instructors encourage their students to tuck and tilt their pelvis to support the muscles and prevent strain.
Another plus about barre is that participants are expected to control their breathing, which helps to activate the pelvic muscle. When you inhale, the pelvic floor falls, when you exhale it rises.
At the class, you may be required to remove your shoes but it is advised that you wear sticky or silicone socks to avoid falls on hardwood floors. It is also best to wear form-fitting clothing. This will help your instructor to determine if you are doing the right pelvic movements.
If you love kickboxing don’t give it up just because you have pelvic organ prolapse.
Kickboxing does require a lot of force at times and it is hard to avoid contracting the abs. This can cause a strain on the pelvic floor. Instead of kickboxing, try something less demanding like Tai Chi . Did you know that many kickboxing techniques/moves come from tai chi?
With tai chi, you can slow things down. Tai chi involves slow movement, concentration on breathing and full-body relaxation. It can help to improve muscle strength, promote flexibility and balance and plays a part in aerobic conditioning.
This is good for persons who want to remain active but aren’t able to go all out because of their prolapse. It is one of the best exercises for older women who can’t keep up with the other exercises on this list, or who suffer from bone and joint problems.