Can I Lift Weights With Prolapse?
Hi friends! Have you been diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse? Have you been warned that living with prolapse means there are things you cannot do? One of these may have been that you can’t lift weights or lift heavy objects. Today we are going to discuss this myth and ways to help you live your best life with prolapse!
Pelvic organ prolapse is the falling of one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, small intestines, or rectum) into the vaginal canal. Sometimes the organ(s) stay inside the vaginal canal, but it can prolapse (bulge) outside of the vagina. Some of the common symptoms of prolapse are pelvic heaviness and pressure and the feeling of vaginal bulging. Other signs of prolapse can include difficulty emptying your bladder or bowels, low back pain, pelvic pain, tailbone pain, pain with sex, and more!
Let’s start by talking about why some people say you shouldn’t lift weights when you have prolapse. Prolapse is often caused by strain on the pelvic floor over time. This can come from a rise in our abdominal pressure which then pushes down on the pelvic floor muscles. This can happen when we hold our breath and strain. Think about straining to have a bowel movement. You may close the back of your throat and push down. When we lift heavy weights, we often do the same thing. This is called a Valsalva maneuver. Overtime, doing the Valsalva maneuver repeatedly can place chronic strain on the pelvic floor and lead to the development of prolapse or the worsening of prolapse symptoms.
But there is good news! Studies have found that physically active women who lift heavy weights for exercise do not have more prolapse symptoms (Forner, 2020). Another study found that women who participate in CrossFit exercises are no more likely to have pelvic organ prolapse than women who do not lift weights (High, 2020).
So, how can you safely lift with prolapse? Here are a few tips to help you lift weights with prolapse successfully:
Breathe! Breathing is so important for the pelvic floor, especially when you have pelvic organ prolapse. Learn to breathe and coordinate your breath with activities like lifting weights to avoid holding your breath. This will help to take the strain off of your pelvic floor muscles to keep them healthy.
See a pelvic floor physical therapist: a pelvic floor physical therapist can look at your entire body (including the pelvic floor) to give you individual recommendations for training your pelvic floor muscles as well as targeted exercises for any areas of weakness that you may have. Strong pelvic floor muscles to support prolapse naturally and help to prevent the worsening of your symptoms.
Pelvic floor muscle training is recommended as a first line treatment for pelvic organ prolapse symptoms and it does not have a risk of adverse effects, like medications or surgery would (Braekken, 2010). Studies have shown that pelvic floor muscle training with a skilled therapist is more effective than training alone at home. You may only need a few sessions with a therapist to see improvement.
Use internal or external supports to help alleviate symptoms of prolapse like heaviness and bulging with exercise. Some of our favorite external supports are the Cabea belly band and the Prenatal Cradle.
There are several internal support options. A pessary is an internal support option that is fitted by a medical professional, but there are other options that do not require a fitting by a healthcare professional. These can include: Poise Impressa, tampons, sea sponges, or menstrual cups. (*Be sure to follow any manufacturers guidelines when using products.)
Here at myPFM we offer a wonderful course that you can complete from the comfort of your own home. The Power Over Prolapse E-Course with Jeanice Mitchell, PT, MPT, WCS, BCB-PMD will help empower you and give you the right tools to thrive with prolapse!
While you may need to make adjustments, living with prolapse does not mean you cannot enjoy the things you love! Watch the video below for 8 tips on reducing prolapse symptoms and improving function.
Here are some great resources to help you start living your life with prolapse:
Ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a pelvic therapist to help you exercise safely and to prevent any pelvic floor symptoms.
Find a pelvic therapist on your own at myPFM.com. We have links to 4 free searchable databases under Find a PT.
Watch our YouTube playlist on Prolapse and the PFM
Read our blog on Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Read Pelvic Organ Prolapse: The Silent Epidemic by Sherrie Palm
Learn more about the pelvic floor muscles with our book: My Pelvic Floor Muscles The Basics
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Hypermobility and the Pelvic Floor with Dr. Linda Bluestein, MD
Pelvic PT Evaluation of the Pelvic Floor Muscles with Dr. Samantha Richter, PT, DPT, WCS
An Innovative Way to Use Electrical Stimulation For Severe Pelvic Floor Dysfunction with Elizabeth Makous, MSPT, CLT, PRPC, CES
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT
1. Forner LB, Beckman EM, Smith MD. Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse in women who lift heavy weights for exercise: a cross-sectional survey. Int Urogynecol J. 2020;31(8):1551-1558.
2. Braekken IH, Majida M, Engh ME, Bo K. Can pelvic floor muscle training reverse pelvic organ prolapse and reduce prolapse symptoms? An assessor-blinded, randomized, controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010;203(2):170e1-7.
3. High R, Thai K, Virani H, Keuhl T, Danford J. Prevalence of pelvic floor disorders in female CrossFit athletes. Female Pelvi Med Reconstr Surg. 2020;26(8):498-502.