What is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti is the separation of the two muscles of the rectus abdominis – the muscles of your mid section. Your rectus abdominis are connected by linea alba (connective tissue). Diastasis Recti is often referred to as “mummy tummy.”
Who is at risk and what does it effect?
Diastasis Recti does not just effect woman; it also effects males and children. We are born with DR, but the linea alba closes as the nervous system develops which is generally by the age of 3. If the abdominal muscles do not close, several issues can occur because the abdominal muscles are there to support the back and organs. When the muscles separate the linea alba is stretched sideways, therefore, gets thinner and weaker. The stretching and weakening causes problems with posture, digestion, elimination of waste, gastrointestinal tract, as well as creating chronic low back pain, pelvic floor issues (incontinence, prolapse ) hip issues, protruding belly button and hernia.
Those who are obese and carry their weight in the abdominal region have an increased risk of DR as well as those performing too many weight lifting and abdominal exercises, especially with improper form. Individuals that are pregnant and have subsequent pregnancies, c-sections, or other abdominal surgeries are also at a higher risk.
Checking for Diastasis Recti.
If you have DR in pregnancy ,there is no real cause for alarm because every women’s midsection will stretch and widen during pregnancy – that is what our midsection is supposed to do! The issue arises when the muscles don’t go back after pregnancy. Some state that any gap between the abdominal wall is considered DR, while others say it varies from 1-3 cm or 2-2.5+ finger width.
There needs to be more emphasis on diagnosing and educating moms on DR Postpartum. Between 35-62% of woman experience DR postpartum making the importance of getting checked after pregnancy increasingly important! If there is a gap, the depth of the fingers that can be inserted between the muscles determines how thinned the linea alba has become. The deeper you can insert your fingers, the worse it is. If the linea alba is very thin, you may even feel pulsing which is your organs. Any bulging at the mid-line from the breast bone to pelvic bone is a sign of DR. Some woman have a gap needing two hands to check. If the gap has not closed within 6-8 weeks postpartum, it is a good idea to look into treatment.
What to avoid if diastasis is present.
Many moms want to get back into shape after the baby and there is a positive and a negative side to that. There are certain exercises to stay away from if DR is present because they can actually do more harm than good. Exercises that should be avoided are any intra-weight bearing exercises such as planks, pushups, burpees, etc. and any position where there is stretching of the abdominal muscles such as upward dog, cow pose, and wheel. Also avoid oblique twists such as triangle pose, criss-cross, and bicycle along with any type of V-Sit. Example of V-sits exercises are boat pose, sit ups, crunches, teasers, etc. Running, skipping, pull ups, jumping or high impact exercises can make diastasis recti worse and, as much as it pains me to say this, front carry baby wearing. Also, something as simple as sitting up needs to be addressed. If you generally sit straight up from a supine position (back lying position), you need to learn to roll over on your side and use the upper body to avoid putting any pressure on your DR.
Fixing the gap
In most cases, diastasis can be corrected. The most well-known technique to correct DR is the Tuplur technique (splinting). Mutu systems is another technique which consists of a more holistic approach to correct the gap. I personally am using Mutu Systems to help close my gap.
In my research, I have read that DR is just a “cosmetic issue.” I can assure you, it is MORE than a “cosmetic issue!” I have several of the aforementioned issues cause my DR and it effects my everyday life. Being a fitness instructor, personal trainer, runner, yogi and baby wearer, I do and have done every one of the things that you are not supposed to do. I also do all of the exercises that should be done to fix DR. I have been successful so far in closing my gap from 4 fingers to 2.5-3 fingers. However, I am sure that if I waited and stuck to the exercises to heal my DR it would have been closed by now. As a competitive person, I know it is hard to be told not to do something but knowing I can go back to all of the exercises when I have fixed my gap makes it a little easier.
Follow these 6 step to do a Diastasis Recti self assessment: video
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent @ a 90 degree angle with feet flat on the floor and head on the floor.
2. Place your three middle fingers in the upper part of your abdominal region pointing in the direction of your toes.
3. Relax your abdominal muscles and lift your head up slightly. DO NOT pull abdominal muscles in as you lift your head, this will give you an incorrect analysis. 4. When you first start feeling the muscles come together, that is when you count to check to see how big the gap is. Release your head back down to the floor and then lift it again, repeat to make sure you get an accurate reading.
5. Add a finger if you do not feel the side of the muscles with 3 fingers. Likewise, remove a finger if you don’t have room for the third finger.
6. Check at the top of your abdominals, then move down to the belly button( about 3 inches) then again down below the belly button