Prolapse: Definition and What it is

Medically and clinically reviewed by Tamara Grisales, MD and Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT

Prolapse Definition and Meaning

Prolapse, commonly referred to as pelvic organ prolapse, refers to a condition where one or more organs in the pelvic area, such as the bladder, uterus, rectum, or bowel, shifts lower in the pelvis, which can create a bulge or sense of pressure in the vagina. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the pelvic muscles and supporting ligaments, which make up the pelvic floor, become weaker. 

Prolapse Symptoms

Organ prolapse can feel differently for everyone and will vary based on which organs are affected, but common symptoms can include: heaviness or pressure in your vaginal area, a sensation like a tampon is falling out, a visible bulge in your vagina or the sensation that a bulge is there, difficulty completely emptying your bowels or bladder (urinary incontinence), constipation, and pain during sex. 

The severity of symptoms does not necessarily correlate with the severity of prolapse. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all.

Types of Prolapse

There are several types of organ prolapse, which can be experienced simultaneously, including:

  • Anterior prolapse or cystocele: bladder bulging into the anterior (front) wall of the vagina.

  • Uterine prolapse: uterus bulging or hanging down into the vagina.

  • Posterior wall prolapse or rectocele: rectum bulging into the back wall of the vagina.

  • Small bowel prolapse or enterocele: small intestine bulging into the back wall or the top of the vagina.

Prolapse: A Hinge Health Perspective

Let’s be honest: The prospect of any of your organs moving out of their proper position is alarming. And just because organ prolapse can be common among those dealing with changes in their pelvic floor, that doesn’t make it normal or something you just have to live with. There’s a lot you can do to improve symptoms. 

Prolapse is very treatable, rarely dangerous, and can often be addressed with a conservative approach. Pelvic floor exercise, lifestyle changes, and other non-surgical interventions can lead to big improvements. Working with a pelvic health physical therapist can help you determine the best treatment plan for you.

Prolapse Treatment

Treatment for prolapse depends on its severity and impact on your quality of life. Pelvic floor exercises and physical therapy are a mainstay of treatment. In milder cases, they may be the only treatment needed. Other treatments can include: vaginal pessary (a flexible silicone, removable device you insert in your vagina that helps hold your pelvic organs in place), hormone treatment, dietary changes, and, in more serious cases, surgery. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help With Prolapse

Pelvic floor physical therapy can treat prolapse symptoms, particularly milder cases. By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, physical therapy can alleviate symptoms and may prevent prolapse from getting worse. You can see a pelvic health physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have pelvic pain; bladder, bowel, or other pelvic symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.


  1. Barber, M. D. & Maher, C. (2013). Epidemiology and outcome assessment of pelvic organ prolapse. International Urogynecology Journal, 24(11):1783-90. doi: 10.1007/s00192-013-2169-9

  2. Iglesia, C. B. & Smithling, K. R. (2017). Pelvic Organ Prolapse. American Family Physician, 96(3): 179-185. 

  3. Pelvic Organ Prolapse. (n.d.). UCLA Health. Retrieved from

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