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Incontinence Exercise Zone

The Best Exercises for a Prolapse

Some exercises can reduce the likelihood of developing a prolapse and even improve a mild one. However, other exercises can actually induce a prolapse - so make sure you know which is which.
Published by Suz Disher
The Best Exercises for a Prolapse

What is a prolapse?

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. In diagnosing a prolapse, the organ that has shifted is used to describe it, for example, a bladder prolapse. It’s also possible to have had multiple organs move, as the shift of one can pull or push others out of place. You can read more in this TENA article Types of Prolapse 


Exercise and prolapses

Some types of exercise can improve and prevent the condition, but others add further stress on the organs, causing a prolapse or making an existing one worse. Therefore, it’s essential to understand the effects of particular exercises and why they may be a help - or a hindrance.


The link between the pelvic floor muscles and prolapses

The pelvic floor supports the pelvic organs. It's a sling of muscles that sit in the base of the pelvic bowl, attached to the pubic bone at the front, and the coccyx at the back If this muscle becomes weak or damaged, the support it provides the organs can be compromised, allowing one or more of them to droop, which in turn, can pull other organs out of place.


What are the causes of a prolapse?

Like all muscles, without sufficient exercise, the pelvic floor will weaken over time. This means that age is a risk factor, but there are other reasons why the pelvic floor can lose condition. These include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth. The extra weight of pregnancy adds strain to the muscle, which can weaken it. During a vaginal birth, the baby passes through the muscles which can be stretched and damaged - even more so if forceps or other interventions are required.
  • Being overweight or obese. Like pregnancy, extra kilos add extra load to the sling of muscle, stretching and weakening it and at the same time, pressing down on pelvic organs.
  • Chronic coughing. Coughing can place a significant downward pressure onto the pelvic organs and the floor muscles. If you occasionally have a cold, it’s probably not a problem, but if you have a consistent smoker’s cough, it can cause muscle damage over time.
  • Persistent constipation. Straining from on-going and untreated constipation will weaken the pelvic floor muscle. While not specific to prolapses, this TENA article titled How Diet Can Improve or Prevent Faecal Incontinence contains useful dietary and lifestyle tips for avoiding constipation.
  • Pelvic injury or surgery. If you’ve sustained any pelvic trauma or had pelvic surgery, damaged the pelvic floor muscles may also have been sustained.
  • Repeated lifting of heavy weights. Without being able to brace strong core muscles (abdomen, lower back and the pelvic floor), lifting weights can strain an already weak muscle and put further pressure on unsupported organs. Weightlifting isn’t confined to the gym; it includes groceries, laundry, babies and small
  • Hormonal changes. Although not conclusive, the reduction of estrogen associated with menopause is thought to contribute to the weakening of all muscles, including the pelvic floor. You can read more about that in the TENA article, Causes of Incontinence: Menopause 



Exercises that can cause, or worsen, a prolapse

It makes sense that if downward straining weakens the pelvic floor, exercises that place additional strain can contribute to the muscle’s further deterioration. Without strength, the pelvic floor can’t be braced against the force and so becomes even more stretched. The pressure can also push organs out of place and if they’ve already started to shift, it can move them even further.


Exercises that have this effect include:

  • High impact exercises. Called high impact because of the jarring effect experienced when landing, high impact activities are running, jumping, some aerobic classes and skipping as well as sports like netball and tennis. Basically, it’s any activity where both feet leave the ground, and the impact of landing adds load to your pelvic floor and jolts your organs. 
  • Weightlifting. Again, the additional weight and downward pressure will add strain to a weak pelvic floor, reducing its ability to support organs and push them 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. All of these put pressure on your core, pushing down deep into your pelvis, straining the supporting muscles and pressing on organs.


Exercises to prevent a prolapse developing, and even improve a mild prolapse

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscle will eventually allow you to do 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 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.
  • Originally developed by Joseph Pilates to assist bedridden patients and injured ballet dancers to regain condition while safeguarding against further injury, Pilates has become extremely popular. Most people find the exercises enjoyable and like the results, which is why studios have popped up in most areas. Using resistance, Pilates has a particular focus on core strength, including the pelvic floor, and is suitable for all levels of fitness. You can read more in the TENA article, Pilates and Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
    • Low impact exercises. Any activity that doesn’t have the ‘jarring’ effect described under ‘high impact exercise’ is deemed 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. Many of these don't specially target your pelvic floor, but done in conjunction with pelvic floor exercises, may help manage weight, constipation, or just gaining the feel-good benefits of doing an activity you like.


    When to seek professional advice?

    If you suspect a prolapse, you must see your doctor. While a very mild prolapse may improved with exercise, anything more progressed requires medical attention. Prolapses do not self-correct.


    A full assessment by a healthcare professional will determine which organs are displaced, how far they’ve shifted, the impact they’re having on other organs and the best treatment for the specific condition. This could include a tailored exercise regime, an insert or surgery.


    Some people’s pelvic floor muscles have become so weak clenching becomes virtually impossible. Don’t be discouraged by this, as regardless of the current state, it can always be improved. If you’re struggling to find your pelvic floor or haven’t noticed an improvement after two to four weeks of exercises, ask your doctor for a referral to a continence physiotherapist. They’ll assist you with identifying the muscles, the correct exercise techniques and develop an individualised program.


    Managing incontinence
    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 have a bowel movement. 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, as well as TENA Pants that looks and feel just like regular underwear. All are designed to quickly absorb the thin, fast flow of a weak bladder to keep you dry and odour-free.


    Check out the TENA Product Finder Tool, and Free Samples  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.