Women, you can and should exercise with pelvic organ prolapse
Updated: Jul 9
“Restricting activity in the hopes of saving a vagina is not promoting holistic women’s health.” - Antony Lo.
I had to snap a picture of that slide while mouthing a silent amen as it was presented by Antony Lo, at The Female Athlete course in Dallas Texas.
In my ten years of practice as a physical therapist in the specialty area of pelvic health, I have seen more and more women paralyzed in fear and confusion when it comes to exercise and everyday activities after a diagnosis of pelvic organ prolapse. I believe that much of this stems from mostly well-meaning people on the internet that put out a lot of simplistic statements like “if you have prolapse you should never lift more than 10lbs, or if you have stress incontinence, you must always do A before B. This approach most definitely restricts activity and is probably more harmful than helpful. So why don’t people just put out information that is helpful? Probably because it is really, really super hard to give women good information that is specific to their situation when writing to a large audience.
Want to learn a bit more about prolapse before reading on? I wrote about it here.
In the paragraphs that follow I will not tell you how to exercise with prolapse (to be done right, that requires a one on one conversation and assessment) but I hope to build a convincing case that you can and should exercise, even if you have prolapse.
American women are completely missing the mark when it comes to meeting the physical activity recommendations set by the World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services. Only 19% of women are reporting activity that meets or exceeds the physical activity guidelines. That means that 81% of women report activity levels below these standards.
Let’s take a closer look at these guidelines.
Hitting these activity standards will lower your risk of
Cardiovascular disease mortality
Adverse blood lipid profile
Cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung and stomach
Falls and fall related injuries
It can Improve
Quality of life
Maintaining a healthy weight
So why are the majority of American women not prioritizing this super important health behavior, given all of its benefits? Most likely, not having enough time is at the top of the list. For that, I will leave you with 2 tidbits.
1) My friend and health coach says...
“What can you take off your plate, before trying to add something in.” - Emily Betros
2) Dr. Mike Evans will convince you that you don’t have time not to exercise in this quick youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo
Another thing that I hear from my clients time and time again is that they are just plain confused about what kind of exercise is safe for them. Who wouldn't be confused? For everything you read online supporting one side, you can read an equally convincing case from the other side.
Hear this: There is an exercise out there that is fun and good for you. You may just need a little help finding it, exploring a different way of doing it, or scaling it.
There is new research out there that suggests we need to rethink the activities once some women advised against. The latest evidence supports that it is less about the exercise itself and more about how we perform it. Do we produce huge amounts of intraabdominal pressure for seemingly light work? Do we produce sizable intraabdominal pressure in heavy lifting but it does not result in a bearing down action but rather a lifting up. All of this is important and I am ready to explore it with you as an individual, not a diagnostic label.
If you are not currently exercising because of a diagnosis of pelvic organ prolapse and are committed to starting an exercise program once you have an individualized plan that works for you, read on.
As a holiday gift to women in West Michigan, I will be offering initial assessments and preliminary exercise planning session totally for free to 6 new clients. You can book your free session here. There is no catch at all. Just the hope that you will feel empowered and excited to begin an exercise program after our session. Again, this is the link to book that free session. https://newseasonspt.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/1/treatment/11
What will this session look like? We will have a conversation about your medical history and the type of exercise that you want to do. I will then do a physical assessment that involves observing your movement and pressure management strategies while you are fully clothed.
Next, with your permission, I will do an internal pelvic floor muscle assessment in lying and in standing and potentially while you are doing a movement like a squat. This exam involves you undressing from the waist down and then I will insert a gloved and lubricated finger vaginally to examine your tissues and muscles. Based on the results of the assessment and your fitness goals we will discuss and make an exercise plan. One key goal of the assessment will be to identify if you are bearing down through your pelvic floor in your activity and find a way for you to do it without bearing down.
Did you miss the chance to sign up for the free session but think you would benefit from the type of assessment described above? I have designed a package just for you.
These 3 sessions have a value of $410 when purchased individually. I am offering a package discount when paid in advance of $350.
This package is for women that are not exercising because of pelvic organ prolapse or are experiencing symptoms of prolapse in their current exercise program. It includes an 80 minute initial assessment as described above and 2, 55 minute follow up sessions or exercise progression and reassessment. The sessions will need to be completed within 3 months time.
Find the package here, or get in touch if you want to know more.