Improving pelvic organ prolapse: How pelvic floor physical therapy offers effective solutions
Do you feel heaviness and pressure in your pelvis? Maybe a bulging sensation that is new and uncomfortable. You might be experiencing a pelvic organ prolapse. This sounds a lot scarier than it is, and the good news is that it isn't a life-long condition if properly cared for.
The gold standard of treatment right off the bat is pelvic floor physical therapy and lifestyle management. Keep reading for more in-depth coverage of this topic. If you're wanting to learn more about pelvic floor physical therapy in general, check out our blog here.
What is a pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that occurs when one or more organs in a pelvis (such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum) slip down from their normal positions and bulge into the vaginal canal. This happens because the muscles and tissues that support these organs become weakened or damaged.
To understand this better, imagine the organs in the pelvis being held in place by a trampoline-like structure made of muscles and ligaments. When these supporting structures become weak, the organs can start to sag or droop, causing them to push against the walls of the vagina.
There are four different stages of a prolapse, meaning there are different severities. The severity of a prolapse does not always match the symptoms, however.
What are the symptoms and causes of a prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse can cause different symptoms depending on the organs involved. Some common signs include a feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area, a bulge or lump in the vagina, difficulty emptying the bladder or bowels, urinary incontinence (leaking urine), and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
Several factors can contribute to the development of pelvic organ prolapse, such as pregnancy and childbirth, hormonal changes during menopause, chronic coughing or straining, and genetic factors. Aging is also a common risk factor as the muscles and tissues naturally become weaker over time.
It's important to note that pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition, especially among older women, and it can be managed effectively with appropriate medical care and lifestyle adjustments. If you suspect you might have pelvic organ prolapse or are experiencing any related symptoms, it's best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.
How do I fix my pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic floor physical therapy is often recommended as the first-line treatment for pelvic organ prolapse. It is a conservative, non-surgical approach that focuses on strengthening and retraining the muscles of the pelvic floor to provide better support to the organs.
During pelvic floor physical therapy, a trained therapist will assess the strength and coordination of your pelvic floor muscles and develop a customized treatment plan based on your specific needs. The therapy may involve various exercises and techniques to improve muscle tone, enhance pelvic floor coordination, and promote better alignment of the pelvic organs.
The goal of pelvic floor physical therapy is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve their ability to support the organs, thereby reducing the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. It can help alleviate symptoms such as pelvic pressure, discomfort, and urinary or bowel issues.
Pelvic floor physical therapy also educates individuals about proper body mechanics, posture, and lifestyle modifications that can aid in managing and preventing further progression of pelvic organ prolapse. The therapy sessions may include biofeedback techniques, dry needling with electrical stimulation, manual therapy, and exercises targeting the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor physical therapy may be sufficient to manage and improve pelvic organ prolapse, especially in mild to moderate cases. However, the effectiveness of the therapy depends on various factors, including the severity of the prolapse as well as the dedication of the individual with their home program. In more severe cases or if conservative measures are not successful, surgical options may be considered.
It's important to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in pelvic health or a physical therapist experienced in pelvic floor rehabilitation to receive proper guidance and treatment tailored to your condition.
Pelvic organ prolapse is one or more of the organs descending from their normal positions in the pelvis and protruding into the vaginal cavity due to weakened pelvic floor muscles and ligaments.
The symptoms of a prolapse may include a sensation of pelvic pressure / heaviness, bulging or protrusion in the vaginal area, difficulty emptying your bowels or bladder, incontinence, and discomfort during intercourse.
The most common causes of a prolapse include: childbirth, age-related weakness especially after menopause, straining during bowel movements, improper form during heavy lifting, chronic coughing, and genetic factors.
Pelvic floor physical therapy is the first line of treatment for a pelvic organ prolapse, and can be quite successful depending upon the motivation of the person and the severity of their case.
About the Author:
Caroline Gamwell, DPT is a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in Pelvic Health and Orthopedics. Dr. Gamwell earned her doctorate at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL with a focus on chronic pain rehabilitation. Dr. Gamwell owns Worth It PT, LLC, a boutique physical therapy practice based in Denver, CO focusing on all things Women’s Health. She holds post-graduate certifications in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy, as well as in treating pregnant and postpartum athletes. Her strongest passions lie with helping others conquer their chronic pain and achieve their intimacy goals.