23 Aug Recover Right after Hysterectomy
Unfortunately, many women are left in the dark about how to safely return to exercise after hysterectomy.
There are some inappropriate abdominal exercises after hysterectomy that can increase the risk of injury to the pelvic floor (e.g. pelvic organ prolapse or hernia). But we know that exercise is important, both for physical and mental health…
So, should you exercise or not?
Yes, you should. However some exercises that are better than others for recovering and returning to exercise after hysterectomy. It’s always best to seek the advice of an Exercise Physiologist to help rehabilitate and return to the activity you love to do – and protect your pelvic floor for the future.
What is a hysterectomy?
A hysterectomy is an operation to remove the uterus – and depending on the type of hysterectomy being performed, accompanying organs such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix are often removed at the same time.
Hysterectomy is one of the most common types of elective surgeries for Australian women – but although this surgery is common it is important to remember that it is a major abdominal surgery that requires a period of rehabilitation afterwards!
Best exercises to start with after a hysterectomy:
First time back at the gym after surgery? Or looking to get started again at home?
The best exercise to start with is walking. Walking is fantastic functional exercise, and hill walking is a great way to challenge your cardiovascular fitness without risking injury to your pelvic floor.
It is also great to start to reconnect with your pelvic floor and core by performing some Pelvic Floor exercises (aka. Kegals) and core breathing. (psst….these exercises can be difficult to do, an Exercise Physiologist can help you!)
Pelvic floor elevators
- Start by lying on your back, with knees bent and feet flat. Take a gentle inhale breath for 3-4 seconds, breathing into your ribcage and tummy, and gently exhale through pursed lips for 5 seconds.
- Think of your pelvic floor like an elevator, with closing doors and a G floor, and 1st floor.
- Start your pelvic floor contraction by ‘closing the elevator doors’ (squeeze around anus and uretha like you are trying to stop the flow of urine)
- Then, feel a gentle lift of the pelvic floor elevator up to the 1st floor.
Always remember to relax your pelvic floor again – by letting it descend back to G floor, and allowing the doors to open. This should not be forceful – but just a relaxation.
Finally, some gentle stretches and mobility work will help to get your body ready to move again. Some of our favourites are:
- Seated glute stretch
- Seated hip flexor stretch
- Wall side bend stretch
What to avoid
Some exercises to avoid after a hysterectomy include:
- High impact exercises e.g. running/jumping/burpees
- Abdominal exercises eg. sit ups/crunches/planks
- Heavily loaded resistance exercises e.g. anything that makes you hold your breath or grunt to lift
Immediately after surgery (within first 6 weeks post surgery) you may be advised to avoid lifting anything heavier than 4kg, and avoid prolonged standing.
This is not to say you can never perform these types of exercises again, but that your body will require some recovery, rehabilitation and regain strength in your pelvic floor and core before your can return to this kind of high impact or heavy loaded work.
Finally, it is always best to start slowly when returning to the gym after major surgery, and if your exercise or activity goal is to return to high impact work like running or sport, seek the help of a professional like an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to help get you there safely and successfully!
Giarenis, I., & Robinson, D. (2014). Prevention and management of pelvic organ prolapse. F1000Prime Reports, 6, 77. http://doi.org/10.12703/P6-77
Kenway, M (2009) Inside Out, Healthy Fit Solutions Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Australia