Prolapse and running Physiotherapist information teaches you all about running with a prolapse and how to reduce the impact of running on your pelvic floor.
Read on now to learn:
- Prolapse and pelvic floor support
- Prolapse and running- who is most at risk?
- Will prolapse worsen with running?
- 7 great tips for pelvic floor protection when running
- How to improve pelvic floor support for running.
You can download ‘Prolapse and Running’ PDF by scrolling down this page.
Prolapse and Pelvic Floor Support
Pelvic prolapse results from inadequate pelvic floor support. Lack of pelvic floor support is caused by weakness in the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues. When the pelvic floor muscles and tissues weaken, they are less able to support the pelvic organs (including the bladder, uterus and rectum). This lack of support contributes to pelvic prolapse when the pelvic organs protrude into the vagina or from the rectum.
Who is at Risk With Prolapse and Running?
Some women and men are more at risk of prolapse and running problems than others including those with:
- Pre-existing prolapse;
- Previous pelvic surgery;
- Pelvic floor muscle weakness and dysfunction;
- Long distance runners; and
- Road runners.
Women at increased risk of prolapse with running including those:
- During postnatal recovery from childbirth;
- Previous vaginal delivery;
- Following previous traumatic vaginal delivery; (forceps, breech);
- Multiparous (multiple births);
- With menopause and beyond;
- Obese and overweight;
- Suffering chronic constipation and straining;
- With chronic cough; and
- Family history of prolapse.
Does a Prolapse Weaken With Running?
Yes…running with a prolapse can further weaken pelvic floor muscles and tissues potentially worsening prolapse severity.
The degree to which running impacts upon a prolapse is determined by:
- Body weight;
- Running distance;
- Pelvic floor strength and function;
- Running surfaces; and
- Recovery time.
If you have a prolapse your pelvic floor support already has some level of dysfunction. The combination of repeated downward pelvic pressure and a lack of pelvic floor support can contribute to prolapse worsening.
Running is a high impact exercise. The impact and pressure associated with body weight landing on a hard surface is transferred down through the pelvic floor and lower limbs to the ground. When repeated over time, the impact of running repeatedly forces the pelvic floor (and prolapse) downwards. When strain is placed upon the pelvic floor, the pelvic floor muscles and tissues stretch and weaken especially if the pelvic floor lacks the strength to withstand this strain. Individuals with prolapse usually have pre-existing pelvic floor dysfunction, so that they lack the capacity to withstand the pressure of high impact exercises like running.
Tips to Protect Your Pelvic Floor With Running
This information is not provided to condone nor encourage individuals with prolapse towards running. It recognises that some committed runners will continue to run despite having a prolapse and advice to the contrary. This information is provided to assist individuals lessen the impact of running on the pelvic floor.
The following tips and techniques reduce pelvic floor impact and can help prevent prolapse, protect and reduce prolapse symptoms.
Tips to reduce the impact of running:
- Alternate running surfaces – Avoid constant running on hard surfaces such as roads and concrete pavements. Try to mix up running sessions to include softer running surfaces such as grass, gravel and sand. Water running is an excellent form of low impact running.
- Avoid downhill running- Running on flat surfaces reduces the physical impact when compared with running downhill. Downhill running increases impact and jarring on the pelvic floor.
- Limit running distance- The longer the running distance, the more repeated the impact upon the pelvic floor. Try to avoid running long distances particularly on a regular basis.
- Reduce stride length- Shorter stride length may help to reduce some of the physical impact associated with running. This may allow your heel to strike the ground less forcefully than with a long stride.
- Mix up workouts- Alternate running workouts with other low impact forms of fitness exercises. These include cross trainer and elliptical machines, cycling and spin classes.
- Manage your weight- The more body weight you carry, the more you load the pelvic floor when you run. Pelvic floor strain is more likely in obese and overweight individuals with running, just as lower limb strain is more prevalent amongst overweight runners. Overweight individuals with a prolapse who run greatly increase their likelihood of worsening prolapse.
- Trial Contiform for bladder leakage- Contiform is a simple user friendly device to help women reduce bladder leakage with running. Contiform sits within the vagina and helps to restore normal bladder position for bladder control with exercise.
How to Improve Pelvic Floor Support for Exercise
- Pelvic floor exercises- Regular daily pelvic floor exercises will optimise the condition of pelvic floor support in order to withstand the pressure associated with a variety of fitness exercises. A strong well supported pelvic floor will better withstand the pressure and impact associated with running when compared with a weak dysfunctional pelvic floor. Commitment to regular ongoing pelvic exercises is an essential to ensuring and optimising long-term pelvic floor support.
- Consider a vaginal pessary- A vaginal pessary is a discreet pelvic floor support device that sits within the vagina and supports prolapsed vaginal tissues. A vaginal pessary is a useful assistive device for women who seek to continue running despite having a prolapse. A well fitting pessary device can reduce prolapse and running symptoms and allow a woman with pelvic floor dysfunction to continue her regular exercise routine. Gynaecologists are usually trained to fit vaginal pessary devices for prolapse support and management and it can be worth discussing your suitability for a pessary.
- Ensure post natal recovery- Before recommencing running, ensure that your pelvic floor is recovered from pregnancy and childbirth. Strengthening for weak muscles can take 5-6 months. Pelvic floor muscles do not function as well during breast feeding owing to the lower levels of circulating oestrogen, so this is important to be mindful of when planning your return to running after childbirth.
Download Prolapse and running article as a user friendly PDF
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Prolapse Exercises Inside Out. Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women with prolapse and after prolapse surgery seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.