Your pelvic floor muscles are not visible, and you may not even be aware of their existence, but they serve a very important purpose — they hold your bladder, uterus, and rectum in place. Like all muscles, they can be stretched, strained, and torn, and when that happens, those organs can slip out of place.
At Advanced Women’s Healthcare, our team wants your organs to remain exactly where they should be. Depending on your situation, we may recommend you see our licensed physical therapist, Stephanie M. Rutherford, PT, MPT, who has specialized training in pelvic floor conditions, including prolapse.
Pelvic organ prolapse
You may be wondering how your pelvic floor muscles can become stretched to the point they no longer hold your organs. Several factors can contribute to prolapse, including:
- Time: All of your muscles become weaker with age.
- Pregnancy and delivery: Pregnancy puts extra strain on your pelvic floor muscles, as does delivery.
- Hysterectomy: As with pregnancy, prolapse may happen many years after a hysterectomy.
- Menopause: Your pelvic floor muscles are weaker following menopause.
Symptoms of prolapse
Your symptoms depend in part on which organ has slipped out of place. Generally, if you can see or feel a bulge in your vagina, you leak urine, things feel weird during sex, or you just feel like something is out of place, you should talk to your doctor, especially if you have one or more of the risk factors listed above.
How physical therapy helps
Most everyone has heard of Kegel exercises, and that is the most-often cited exercise in conversations and research about using physical therapy to help with the symptoms of prolapse. However, even though you’ve heard of Kegel exercises, you may not be doing them correctly.
In addition to helping you understand how, how often and how many Kegel exercises you should be doing, Stephanie may suggest other exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles and your lower back. Often referred to as your core, these muscles help support your pelvic floor muscles.
Most often, the exercises you learn to strengthen your core aren’t typical abdominal exercises. Crunches and sit-ups may actually make your problem worse! This is one reason it’s important to work with a professional who’s trained in pelvic floor issues.
Physical therapy doesn’t work instantly, because it takes time to build strength. However, for many women, physical therapy is effective. It can often reduce symptoms, prevent the condition from worsening, and may mean you don’t need surgery.
If you’d like to learn more about your risk of prolapse, what symptoms to watch for, or what kinds of treatment options are available, book an appointment at Advanced Women’s Healthcare. Our staff is happy to answer your questions in the specific context of your situation.