Understanding Rectocele vs. Rectal Prolapse - Legacy Physical Therapy
Call to Schedule (636) 225-3649

Understanding Rectocele vs. Rectal Prolapse


The human body is an intricate network of organs and muscles working together to maintain proper function. Within this complex system, issues related to the pelvic floor can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Two common conditions affecting the pelvic region are rectocele and rectal prolapse. Both conditions can cause discomfort, but understanding their differences and the role of pelvic floor physical therapy (PT) is essential for effective management and treatment.

Rectocele: A rectocele occurs when the supportive tissue between the rectum and vagina weakens, leading to a bulge of the front wall of the rectum into the back wall of the vagina. This condition is often the result of childbirth, chronic constipation, heavy lifting, or other factors that put strain on the pelvic floor muscles. Symptoms of rectocele may include:

  1. Difficulty passing stool
  2. A sensation of incomplete bowel movement
  3. Pelvic pressure or discomfort
  4. Tissue protrusion in the vaginal area

Rectal Prolapse: A rectal prolapse involves the protrusion or descent of the rectum through the anal opening. This condition occurs when the rectal tissue slips out of its normal position, either partially or entirely, causing symptoms such as:

  1. Visible protrusion of the rectum through the anus
  2. Difficulty controlling bowel movements
  3. Leakage of stool or mucus
  4. A feeling of a bulge or fullness in the rectal area

While rectocele and rectal prolapse may share some similarities in symptoms, their underlying causes and anatomical differences distinguish them from one another. However, both conditions often benefit from pelvic floor physical therapy as part of their management and treatment.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy:

Pelvic floor physical therapy is a specialized form of therapy that focuses on the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues supporting the pelvic organs. A trained pelvic floor therapist assesses the strength, coordination, and flexibility of these muscles and develops a personalized treatment plan. This therapy typically involves:

  1. Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels): Strengthening exercises aimed at improving muscle tone and control in the pelvic region.
  2. Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques such as tissue mobilization and stretching to release tension and improve muscle function.
  3. Education and Lifestyle Modifications: Guidance on proper posture, diet, and bowel habits to reduce strain on the pelvic floor.

For individuals with rectocele or rectal prolapse, pelvic floor physical therapy can play a crucial role in managing symptoms, improving pelvic muscle strength, and enhancing overall pelvic health.

Rectocele and rectal prolapse are distinct pelvic floor conditions that can significantly impact a person’s daily life. Understanding the differences between these conditions and seeking appropriate treatment, including pelvic floor physical therapy, is essential for managing symptoms and improving pelvic health. Consulting with healthcare professionals and pelvic floor therapists can provide personalized guidance and strategies for better management and a higher quality of life for individuals dealing with these conditions. If you are experiencing bothersome symptoms of a rectal prolapse or a rectocele, don’t hesitate to set up a FREE discovery session with one of our skilled pelvic floor therapists to see how best we can help you manage your symptoms!