Learn about prolapse, its causes, symptoms, and how pelvic floor physical therapy can help. Get expert advice to manage and treat pelvic organ prolapse effectively.
By: Dr. Kinsey Worley, PT DPT
Understanding Prolapse and How Pelvic Floor Therapy Can Help
Have you recently received a diagnosis of pelvic organ prolapse from your healthcare provider? Perhaps you stumbled upon this term while researching your symptoms online, but you're unsure about its exact meaning. If you're seeking clarity about prolapse or exploring how pelvic floor physical therapy can assist with its management, you're in the right place!
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic Organ Prolapse refers to the condition where one or more pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, lose their normal support from surrounding muscles, ligaments, and fascia. This results in the organs descending lower within the pelvis than their usual position. While childbirth is a common trigger for prolapse, other causes include chronic constipation, surgical procedures, and conditions linked to increased intra-abdominal pressure, like obesity or COPD.
A study from 2005 indicated that prolapse affects 14-35% of women, varying based on the specific organ involved. The most prevalent form is bladder prolapse (also known as cystocele). Another study suggested that up to 50% of women could exhibit signs of prolapse during a vaginal examination, although not all may experience noticeable symptoms.
“Pelvic floor physical therapy has robust evidence-based support and clear benefit as a first-line treatment for most pelvic floor disorders, including pelvic organ prolapse.”
Recognizing Prolapse Symptoms
Symptoms of prolapse may encompass sensations of vaginal heaviness or pressure, a feeling that a pelvic organ is descending, lower back pain, difficulty in fully emptying the bladder, and challenges with regular bowel movements. These symptoms often worsen as the day progresses due to the influence of gravity on the affected organ. Conversely, symptoms may improve when lying down or elevating the legs and pelvis.
Effective Management of Prolapse
Addressing prolapse symptoms requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses various strategies. Initiating positive changes in your exercise routine, nutritional habits, and hydration levels can contribute to reduced constipation and improved BMI, both of which are correlated with prolapse.
Optimizing the functionality of your core muscles, including the pelvic floor, abdominal, and hip muscles, is pivotal for supporting pelvic organs. Achieving proper muscle balance enables muscles to relax and contract as needed. Since each individual's needs differ, relying solely on pelvic floor contractions (Kegels) may not provide a tailored solution for concerns like prolapse and incontinence. According to the Stanford School of Medicine - Urology Department (Wallacea 2019), Pelvic floor physical therapy has robust evidence-based support and clear benefit as a first-line treatment for most pelvic floor disorders, including pelvic organ prolapse.
If pelvic organ prolapse is linked to another condition, such as COPD or cystic fibrosis (CF), addressing the underlying ailment is essential for effective management. For some individuals, using a pessary—a circular device similar to a menstrual disc—can provide additional support. Pessaries come in various sizes and shapes, and their usage duration varies based on symptoms.
Surgery is typically reserved for severe prolapse cases (Stages 3 and 4), but it carries higher risks of failure and regression. If surgery is considered, undergoing pelvic floor physical therapy prior to and after the procedure is valuable for optimizing muscle function and recovery.
Discover the Benefits of Pelvic Floor Therapy
Whether you've received a pelvic organ prolapse diagnosis or suspect you might be dealing with prolapse symptoms, seeking pelvic floor therapy from our team of Doctors of Physical Therapy is a smart step. We offer thorough evaluations and personalized care plans to help you achieve your goals. Whether it's lifting your infant effortlessly or engaging in weightlifting without discomfort, fully emptying your bladder without leaks, or experiencing smooth bowel movements, we're here to assist you in your journey to better pelvic health.
If you are ready to improve your symptoms and embark on a transformative path toward pelvic well-being, reach out today to discover how pelvic health physical therapy can empower you to lead a healthier, more fulfilling life. Call Today!