Many women who read this blog have children and may have heard of Diastasis Recti. This is when there’s a separation of the abdominal muscles. I am not a specialist in this area. Just a woman who experienced it that also has a medical background to synthesize what I learned. I would highly suggest you read this and then consider participating in a physical therapy program. Today we’re going to cover some basics and give you a few things you can do!
What It Is
Diastasis Recti (or DR) is a midline gap in the abdominal muscles. There is fascia there, so it’s not that your intestines are just going to popout. The gap is in the muscles. This leaves an area of weakness in the core. Here’s a great visual by Mom in Balance.
The gap is measured by finger width. You can get an idea of yours by watching this video:
Many women have DR and don’t even know it. It is often after pregnancy that it is discovered. There’s a population of people who have this regardless of whether or not they have a baby (I’m one of those).
What It Is Not
Some people think this is a hernia but it is not. Believe me, you likely do not have a hernia that spans the entire vertical of your abdomen. A hernia would be a weakness in the fascia causing intestine to push through. If you think you have a hernia that is causing pain, please see your doctor for evaluation.
DR is not medical issue in the sense of needing repair. Some women request surgery for this but it is not covered by insurance because it is considered cosmetic.
Just because it isn’t a major medical issue, doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If left unaddressed, your core will be weaker and you are at increased risk of injury. This is especially important for your back, as a strong core is what protects your back from injury.
What You Can Do
Good news – It is not impossible to have a strong core in the presence of DR, but it does take intentional work. I would highly recommend seeing a women’s health physical therapist or purchase a program created by one of these professionals.
There are SO many resources out there, but my favorite is the MuTu system. I did this after my son (and my other kids) and am so glad I did! It’s a paid 12 week program that has lifetime access and support. It was created by a women’s health physical therapist in the UK and is evidence based. I swear I don’t get any kick-backs for you signing up, so head over to mutusystem.com to learn more and see others’ results
Most of us do not breath properly. Because of this, there is undue stress placed on the abdomen during activities, hindering our ability to strengthen our core. Breathing is essential for repairing a DR. Here are two videos to give you an idea of how to do these breathing exercises.
This can be a bit tricky as some yoga and meditation practices do belly/diaphragmatic breathing. If you have DR, I’d recommend limiting your belly breathing.
Contraction and Strengthening
I addition to breathing, proper strengthening are essential. I had a 3 finger diastasis after my children and I was able to get it to a fingertip with strengthening alone. There are many success stories like this out there for programs (I did MuTu as I mentioned above).
Not all core exercises are created equal. Exercises like planks that increase your intraabdominal pressures are NOT a good idea early on. Early on we start super basic because most of us don’t know how to control our abdominal and pelvic floor muscles properly. We often contract at the wrong time and increase the DR strain.
Here are some basic key principles:
- Relax on inhale, conctract on exhale
- Imagine pulling your belly button up and in when you contract
- Imagine your pelvic floor drawing up and in when you contract
- When doing an exercise on your back, your low back should NOT lift off the floor. If it does, you must modify the exercise as your deeper core muscles aren’t ready for that exercise.
- Slow and steady is key
Here is a brief core workout you can try at home!
What have you done for your core health and DR?