When a woman first finds out she has pelvic organ prolapse, her life is often turned upside down, especially if fitness plays a significant role in her life. Suddenly everything seems to be ‘off limits’ with regards to exercise leading to depression and isolation. While certain exercises can make things worse, there are still plenty of options available that can help with mind, body and spirit.
Swimming, cycling and walking are all great choices if you are living with pelvic organ prolapse. Gentle, low/no impact activities will prevent additional strain on the ligaments and muscles that support the internal organs. Pay attention to your posture while you cycle – opt for padded cycling shorts and a gel seat so you can sit with your pelvis as close to neutral as possible. When walking, try to incorporate some hills if possible and avoid the treadmill if you can as it doesn’t mimic our natural gait. You may also want to consider transitioning to minimalist shoes where your foot is as close to barefoot as possible. Positive heeled shoes (when the heel is higher than the forefoot) shift your pelvic alignment and can cause mal-alignment of the organs as well.
Body Weight Exercise
To get a good workout, you don’t need equipment – all you need is your body. Some of my favourite body weight movements are bridges, donkey kicks, and wall push-ups. Bridges work the glutes and hamstrings while inverted so it removes the strain on the pelvic floor. Donkey kicks work the glutes and hamstrings as well, with the elbows down it is also an inversion of sorts. Wall push-ups put the body in a forward lean which downward pressure. Be sure to add the Core Breath to these moves – exhale on to pre-contract the pelvic floor and then press up or away.
If you love to lift weights, it is advised to reduce the weight to avoid the additional strain on the pelvic floor. Choose lighter weights and up the reps. Supine and side lying positions can help reduce the effect of gravity on the pelvic floor. Try crook lying tricep extensions to work the backs of your arms. For your shoulders lean on a ball and do lateral raises. For your biceps get on your knees leaning over a ball and do preacher curls. Whenever you are weight training, you’d want to pre-contract your pelvic floor before you lift or exert the force. Add in core breathing to every move.
The term ‘HYPOpressive™’ refers to a decrease or reduction in pressure. This form of exercise, now being referred to as low pressure fitness™, reduces pressure to the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities, where traditional abdominal exercises, gravity, as well as the majority of our daily activities are HYPERpressive—they increase intra-abdominal pressure. We need some intra- abdominal pressured to help stabilize our spine sometimes we lose the ability to manage these pressures and this is what can then lead to dysfunctions of the pelvic floor.
Hypopressives™ are a specific set of poses that create a decrease in pressure and amplify the hypopressive effects, lift the internal organs and improve posture. In the pose, an apnea (a temporary cessation of breathing) and a false inhale are added after a full exhale to create a vacuum affect resulting in a decrease of pressure within the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities.
Stretching and Release Work
Ensure your daily regime (even on rest days) include hamstring stretches and calf stretches. By lengthening the muscles in the back of the legs it will allow the pelvis to maintain its neutral position. Sitting all day and wearing heels can shorten the backside and contribute to core dysfunction. Leg up on the wall pose is a great pose that eliminates gravity and opens up the pelvis and hips. Supine butterfly is another favourite of mine to help open up the hips.