One of the best things you can spend time learning about if you have prolapse is how to manage intra-abdominal pressure when exercising. You may have heard us say it before: it’s less about WHICH exercise you do, it’s more about HOW you do it. The premise behind this statement is that the strategy you use inside of your exercise can significantly impact the amount of pressure reaching down to your pelvic organs and pelvic floor. This is why two women with the same degree of prolapse, doing the same exercise, can both have different outcomes. One might feel completely asymptomatic whereas one might notice heaviness or pressure afterwards.
So what can you do to reduce intra-abdominal pressure during your exercise regime?
Here are 5 tips to help you navigate the concept of pressure management:
1. Exhale Softly
When you participate in core exercises, for example, pilates-style exercises, do you make a “shhhh” sound when you breathe out? Or what about when you lift weights at the gym? Do you find yourself holding your breath a lot? Both of these breath strategies can leave you feeling more symptomatic after your workout. The reason being, they elevate intra-abdominal pressure in the core which can negatively influence the status of your prolapse.
Instead of holding your breath or using a resisted exhale, such as shushing, keep your mouth and throat relatively open as you exhale through the heavy part of your movement. Make breathing easy.
2. “Spread the load around”
There is way to intentionally manipulate pressure contained within the abdomen by spreading it around the entire abdomen rather than directing it downwards to the pelvic floor. This is why some can hold their breath and not have it affect their pelvic floor.
If you are a heavy weight lifter, and therefore, have to hold your breath to execute the lift, use this concept of spreading the load around during the lifting phase of your movement. Keep the pressure dispersed around the front, back, sides, and top of abdomen, and keep less of it directed downwards.
If you’re not a heavy weight lifter, but notice you’re holding your breath sometimes, try replace your breath-hold with an exhale. If that option doesn’t work, you can apply the same concept of spreading the load around during any movement where you find yourself holding your breath.
3. Inhale into the Whole Abdomen
Continuing on the topic of breathing and spreading the load around, one way to you can use this strategy is during your inhale. When you breathe in, there is a natural rise in intra-abdominal pressure and this pressure can press down on your pelvic organs. Now, our bodies do withstand much of this pressure, so the goal is not to remove it entirely from the system, but is to reduce how much of it reaches down.
When you inhale, breath into your chest, ribs, upper abdomen, and middle abdomen. Expand into of those areas and breathe less into your lower abdomen.
4. Use Lighter Weights
The heavier the weight the more intra-abdominal pressure is needed to lift it. If you you’re trying to reduce pressure in your workouts, rather than lifting heavy weights until you fatigue, opt for lighter weights instead. You can still get a great workout using less load by completing more reps within each set.
5. Change your Position
The position of your body can influence how and where intra-abdominal pressure is distributed in your core; not surprisingly, upright positions have the tendency to load your pelvic floor and pelvic organs more than gravity-eliminated positions. One simple strategy to reduce intra-abdominal pressure is to change your exercise position. Instead of spending your entire workout standing on your feet, try to exercise in sitting, side-lying, hands-and-knees, back-lying positions. These can be interspersed between standing exercises to reduce the accumulated downwards load over the course of your workout.
Using these 5 tips to reduce intra-abdominal pressure during exercise can help you manage your prolapse symptoms. You'll still be able to enjoy a variety exercises and will realize you can do a lot more than what you initially thought!