If you are an avid runner, discovering that you have pelvic organ prolapse can be devastating. So, you may be asking yourself (and your dear friend Google): “Can I run with prolapse? Or should I give it up for a more prolapse-friendly form of exercise?”
We feel you. Exercise has a profound effect on our physical and mental well-being. Regular physical activity helps us stay in shape, maintains our cardiovascular health, protects us from cognitive decline, and has a positive effect on our mental health.
So, we’re here to help you out and clear your doubts and concerns.
Let’s take a closer look at pelvic organ prolapse, how running affects it, and what you can do about it.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Why Does It Happen?
Pelvic organ prolapse, also referred to as POP, is a women’s health issue when either their uterus, bladder, or rectum (or a combination of two or more) lack support provided by the pelvic floor and are pulled into the vagina or the rectum. Prolapse can range in severity from mild and barely noticeable to severe when the entire vaginal canal protrudes from the vaginal opening. It is rater common, affecting an estimated 50% of women.
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when pelvic floor muscles and tissues are either weak or injured. As a result, they can no longer provide the support that pelvic organs need. Pregnancy and childbirth are among the most common contributing factors. However, prolapse can also develop as women age and near or enter menopause, due to excess weight, lifestyle habits, and more.
In many cases, prolapse is due to a combination of factors and develops gradually over time. So, female runners may not discover it until several years after giving birth.
How Running Affects the Pelvic Floor
Running is a high-impact form of exercise. Each time your heel lands on the ground the force from its impact transfers to your pelvic floor. A healthy and reflexive pelvic floor responds by contracting. This supports the pelvic organs and prevents bowel or urine leakage.
However, if your pelvic floor is weak, hypertense, injured, or otherwise damaged, it is unable to contract optimally. If you are developing prolapse, each time your heel lands, the affected organ or organs are being pulled further down into the vagina.
So, Can I Run with Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
In the short term, it truly depends. If your pelvic organ prolapse is mild, you may still be able to continue running with a few adjustments to your routine and running habits.
However, if your case is severe, most experts agree that avoiding running or any other high-impact exercise is the best approach. Until, at least, you adopt healing practices and your condition improves.
Regardless of what your doctor may have told you, you can eventually recover your ability to run. To do so, you need to take up healing practices that can help you recover your pelvic floor functionality and heal prolapse.
Holistic Practices and Exercises for Prolapsed Bladder, Uterus, and Bowels So that You Can Run Again
Many women do not address their pelvic floor health and issues until things get really bad. Moreover, medical professionals frequently consider pelvic organ prolapse as an inconvenience rather than a health emergency.
So, your doctor may recommend pessaries, Kegels, or, if your case is severe, surgery. However, these frequently recommended solutions patch things up rather than address the root cause and frequently make things worse.
Pessaries may hold things in place but they do nothing to heal and reverse pelvic organ prolapse. In most cases, Kegels are ineffective and pull pelvic organs even further into the direction of prolapse. Surgery is invasive and results in the development of scar tissue that impairs the functionality of the pelvic floor. Due to that, surgery becomes a repeat procedure for women who opt for it.
Sadly, though, that’s about where medical advice normally ends, leaving you defeated and unable to run.
Yet, there is hope and better options. You can not only heal naturally, but run again as if you’d never had pelvic organ prolapse in the first place. There are also plenty of other benefits. These include no more incontinence or embarrassing vaginal gas, better sex, and much more.
Here’s what you can do instead.
A low-impact routine that involves exercises, postures, and breathing techniques, hypopressives can be extremely effective in healing and reversing prolapse.
Contrary to running and other forms of exercise, the hypopressive exercise routine reduces the pressure in the abdominal-pelvic cavity and provide immediate relief from a prolapsed uterus, bladder, and bowels. Women describe the feeling as their prolapsed organs pulling back in.
Regular practice of the hypopressive method helps to improve the functionality of the pelvic floor. As a result, it helps your pelvic floor to restore its natural ability to be reflexive.
Ready to start your journey with Hypopressives? Watch this video
2. Pelvic Floor Therapy
Pelvic floor therapists specialize in pelvic floor disorders. Therefore, they can recommend a personalized approach and the best exercises that you can practice for your prolapsed bladder, uterus, or bowels.
3. Scar Tissue Remediation
If you suffered injuries or damage during childbirth, your pelvic floor muscles and tissues carry memory of it in the form of scar tissue. Despite facilitating the healing process, scar tissue is not as elastic as the original tissue. This can cause stiffness, tightness, impair blood and oxygen flow and nerve function, weakening your pelvic floor even more.
The scar tissue remediation technique can help you improve the functionality of the pelvic scar tissue. Due to that, your entire pelvic floor can perform its functions better and provide the support that your pelvic organs need.
How to dissolve scar tissue- prolapse treatment without surgery?
4. Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Diet and lifestyle are essential to support pelvic health. Managing weight is crucial to prevent additional pressure and strain on the pelvic floor. A healthy and balanced diet can also help you improve your bowel movements, prevent constipation, and support the body’s natural processes. This can prevent you from worsening your prolapse.
In addition to that, avoiding constipation, straining during toilet breaks, smoking, and respiratory infections causing excessive coughing can also have a positive effect on the wellbeing of your pelvic floor.
What should you eat to support your healing? Watch this video
5. Belly Dancing
Belly dancing may not seem like a viable solution to heal pelvic organ prolapse and help you run again. However, it is an extremely beneficial exercise routine for a prolapsed bladder, bowels, and uterus. It is a low-impact way of gently toning your pelvic muscles and tissues, and it’s also fun and women-friendly.
Pilates is another low-impact exercise method that can help heal a prolapsed bladder, uterus, and bowels. It is alignment-driven and focuses on increasing strength, endurance, and flexibility as well as improving posture. Therefore, it can help you remain in shape if you have to temporarily give up running due to pelvic organ prolapse.
Tips to Run with Pelvic Organ Prolapse
If your prolapse case is mild and you absolutely must run, there are a few changes you can make to reduce the impact on your pelvic floor and prevent your prolapse from worsening. Below are a few tips that can help you run with pelvic organ prolapse:
Modify Your Running Habits
- Reduce your running speed, distance, and length: the faster, longer, and further you run, the greater the impact on your pelvic floor. Reducing your running speed, distance, and duration can help you lower the impact as well,
- Run early in the morning: as the day advances, gravity places more pressure on your pelvic floor. So, you are likely to feel heavier and in more discomfort at the end of the day. Therefore, run early to avoid that,
- Choose soft terrain: vary surfaces you run on and choose softer ones such as dirt, sand, and trail. Avoid hard surfaces such as concrete as they will put more pressure on your pelvic floor,
- Avoid running downhill: the impact on your pelvic floor is higher when you run downhill. So, opt for flat surfaces instead,
- Take shorter strides: they may reduce the impact of your feet striking the ground as well as the impact on the pelvic floor.
Respect the Needs and Specifics of Your Body
- Avoid running when you feel unwell or fatigued: your body, including your pelvic floor, will be less likely to perform at its best if you aren’t feeling well,
- Manage your weight: running with pelvic organ prolapse if you have excess weight has a high chance of making your condition worse,
- Integrate low impact forms of exercise: instead of only running, mix things up and integrate low impact exercise routines such as hypopressives, Pilates, or belly dancing to improve your pelvic floor health.
- Run during the first half of your menstrual cycle: if you run with pelvic organ prolapse, you may notice that it bothers you more in the weeks just before your period. That’s because female hormones fluctuate throughout the month and affect our metabolism, performance, and recovery rate. Due to these differences, high-impact exercise such as running is more suitable during the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle. This is the phase after your period and before ovulation. After ovulation, It’s best to avoid running with pelvic organ prolapse. Instead, you will benefit more from restorative and low-impact practices such as yoga and hypopressives.
Heal Your Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Run Again with Women Cycles
If you’re heartbroken after being told by your healthcare provider that your running days are over due to pelvic organ prolapse, we’re here to state the opposite.
Having personally recovered from prolapse, we know that you can heal your pelvic organ prolapse and run again. And more importantly – you can do this naturally from the comfort of your home.
Women Cycles is an online learning platform where you can find courses on pelvic floor health and other women’s health issues from women like you. Check out our online courses on healing pelvic organ prolapse to see how you can benefit.