Diastasis Recti (also known as abdominal separation) is a disorder defined as a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle into right and left halves.
A small amount of widening of the mid line happens in all pregnancies and is normal.
Diastasis Recti reduces the integrity and functional strength of the abdominal wall and can aggravate lower back pain and pelvic instability. Separation in a previous pregnancy significantly increases the probability, and severity, of the condition in subsequent pregnancies. Women expecting more than one baby, petite women, those with a pronounced sway back, or with poor abdominal muscle tone are at greatest risk. Genetics also plays a big role. For some women, it simply how their bodies respond to pregnancy.
Diastasis Recti/Abdominal Separation Test
This simple self-test will help you determine if you have Diastasis Recti. I found this test on the BeFit-Mom website. You can go there to see a lot more great information on this condition.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, and the soles of your feet on the floor.
- Place one hand behind your head, and the other hand on your abdomen, with your fingertips across your midline-parallel with your waistline- at the level of your belly button.
- With your abdominal wall relaxed, gently press your fingertips into your abdomen.
- Roll your upper body off the floor into a “crunch,” making sure that your ribcage moves closer to your pelvis.
- Move your fingertips back and forth across your midline, feeling for the right and left sides of your rectus abdominismuscle. Test for separation at, above, and below your belly button.
A midline separation of 2-2 1/2 finger width is considered problematic. With a larger diastasis, it can create several problems such as chronic lower back pain, lumbar instability, digestive problems and worse of all, hernias.
Julie Tupler discusses how to properly check for DR on her site as well.
Videos that show you how to measure properly for DR.
If you have a large separation, before you even think of having surgery, with the correct exercises, you can actually come close to closing the gap and repairing the damage done! Take a look at some great information from Diane Lee, PT as she discusses diagnosis and treatment methods of Diastasis Recti.
You can be making your Diastasis Recti worse if you are doing traditional abdominal work like crunches, sit ups, bicycle crunches etc., and let your abdominals balloon/bulge/inflate during the exercise. Continually performing exercises can also create postural problems, lower back issues, pelvic instability and pelvic floor pain.
Kim Vopni gives some excellent advice taken from this article entitled,” Six Reasons You Where Right to Hate Crunches” – instead of crunching your way to oblivion, I urge you to take a step back. If it’s a flat tummy you are after, begin with optimizing your alignment during everyday activities such as sitting and walking – position your ribs over your pelvis, keep your tailbone untucked and balance your weight over your feet rather than the forefoot. Move more, sit less and exercise your pelvic floor in isolation to start, then progress to dynamic movements such as bridges, squats and lunges. Choose exercises that restore your body instead of break it down. You can read more about exercising here as well.
Have you every heard of the MuTu® System? It is the complete body make-over for Moms who want to lose the baby belly, improve pelvic floor function, strengthen their core and get strong, fit and truly body confident. It is geared towards anyone that has Diastasis Recti. Check out the system here.
Want to do some exercises to help with your Diastasis Recti? Check out these exercises with Physical Therapist Michelle Kenway
I would strongly suggest looking at the Diastasis Rectified blog. This lady chronicles her journey in healing DR and has excellent advice and photos.
Katy Bowman has a new book out on Diastasis Recti (2016) and discusses it here on her podcast.
Types of Movement to Avoid
- Upper body twists where the arm on that side extends away from the body, such as “triangle pose.”
- Exercises that require lying backward over an exercise ball.
- Yoga postures that stretch the abs, such as “cow pose,” “up-dog,” all backbends, and exaggerated “belly breathing.”
- Exercises that flex the upper spine off the floor or against the force of gravity such as: as crunches, oblique curls, “bicycles,” roll ups/roll downs, etc.
- Pilates exercises that use the “head float” position, upper body flexion, or double leg extension.
- Exercises that cause the abdominal wall to bulge out upon exertion.
- Lifting and/or carrying heavy objects.
- Intense coughing when your abdominal is not supported.
- In general it is best to avoid anything that “jack-knifes” the body, by pivoting at the hip and placing strain on the abdominals. Examples of these movements are straight leg lifts or holds while lying on your back.
Research and Articles – Diastasis Rectus
Diastasis Rectus Abdominis – A Midline Separation of the Abdominal Wall – We now know who can be helped with conservative treatment and training and who needs surgery to repair the separation of the midline abdominal wall.