Diastasis recti, or a separation between the abdominal muscles is a common condition that is often overlooked. It requires a medical diagnosis, and can be significantly improved through a combination of exercise and physical therapy.
What is diastasis recti, and why does it happen?
Diastasis recti is when a gap forms between the left and right abdominal muscles (the muscles that make up a “six pack”). This gap can occur as the result of a pregnancy, carrying excess weight in the abdomen, or as an injury from overly strenuous exercise, and can happen to any body.
The connective tissue on that center line of the abdomen stretches and thins, causing a weakness that is most often painless, but can cause a number of issues including trunk instability, poor posture, and a flabby or pouch look to the midsection. In some cases, diastasis recti may result in pain in the hips, pelvis, and back.
How is diastasis recti diagnosed?
A medical professional will evaluate the abdominal muscles, looking for things like the space between the muscles and the depth of that space, in addition to discussing medical history and habits. These factors can point to an abdominal separation, and a diagnosis is the first step in remedying diastasis recti using specific exercises and other physical therapy interventions.
Diastasis recti and pregnancy
During pregnancy, the abdomen stretches to accommodate the growing fetus, which causes the abdominal muscles to spread. While many pregnant people either never notice a separation, or have one that resolves on its own shortly after giving birth, about 30% of new parents suffer from diastasis recti following birth and the immediate postpartum period.
Those who have given birth via c-section or vaginally may discover an abdominal separation, often referred to as a “pooch” or “mommy tummy”. This may be visible all the time as a bulge or dent in the belly, or may show as a tenting of the abdominal muscles when certain movements are made.
This can be uncomfortable, causing weakness or even pain, and can also affect confidence. While some changes to the body are expected post-pregnancy, it can be very disappointing to fit into pre-pregnancy jeans and still have an uncomfortable or notably rounded midsection. Even an overall fit body can struggle with this issue, and addressing diastasis recti can result in shrinking of the waist measurement by up to several inches.
For the most part, obstetricians do not evaluate patients for diastasis recti, so if you suspect an abdominal separation after giving birth, it is important to contact a physical therapist who specializes in treating this condition.
How is diastasis recti treated?
Diastasis recti can be treated with the help of a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor and abdominal health. Most people assume crunches or sit-ups will help, however this could worsen the situation. At Body Restoration Physical Therapy in Long Island, New York, we can help address diastasis recti with a combination of kinesio taping to encourage proper posture, and guided exercises to increase strength.
The goal to treating diastasis recti is strengthening the abdominal muscles and drawing them together, tightening the loosened connective tissue between and training the muscles back into place.
It is crucial to evaluate existing exercise routines, removing exercises which force the abdominal muscles outwards and focusing on those that strengthen the individual muscles of the core. Proper bending and stretching techniques are also used to make sure that everyday movements do not strain the muscles further.
Body Restoration Physical Therapy treats diastasis recti
Diastasis recti is a very common, but not widely addressed condition. We will teach good habits, properly strengthen the core, and help restore comfort and confidence to bodies suffering from diastasis recti. Take the first step in your journey to stronger abdominals, and contact Body Restoration Physical Therapy today.