The effects of training by virtual reality or gym ball on pelvic floor muscle strength in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial

Natalia M. Martinho Valéria R. Silva Joseane Marques Leonardo C. Carvalho Denise H. Iunes Simone Botelho About the authors

ABSTRACT

Objective

To evaluate the effectiveness of abdominopelvic training by virtual reality compared to pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) using a gym ball (a previously tested and efficient protocol) on postmenopausal women’s pelvic floor muscle (PFM) strength.

Method

A randomized controlled trial was conducted with 60 postmenopausal women, randomly allocated into two groups: Abdominopelvic training by virtual reality – APT_VR (n=30) and PFMT using a gym ball – PFMT_GB (n=30). Both types of training were supervised by the same physical therapist, during 10 sessions each, for 30 minutes. The participants’ PFM strength was evaluated by digital palpation and vaginal dynamometry, considering three different parameters: maximum strength, average strength and endurance. An intention-to-treat approach was used to analyze the participants according to original groups.

Results

No significant between-group differences were observed in most analyzed parameters. The outcome endurance was higher in the APT_VR group (p=0.003; effect size=0.89; mean difference=1.37; 95% CI=0.46 to 2.28).

Conclusion

Both protocols have improved the overall PFM strength, suggesting that both are equally beneficial and can be used in clinical practice. Muscle endurance was higher in patients who trained using virtual reality.

Keywords:
physical therapy; menopause; muscle strength dynamometer; pelvic floor; virtual reality exposure therapy

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