While a lot has been written about how to get six pack abs, let’s look at a common problem that also deserves a lot of attention and care.
What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is the separation of the Transverse Abdominis muscles along the Linea Alba. This creates a gap between the right and left sides of the abdominal muscles. All of us are born with abdominal muscles that are separated but as the back muscles and internal organs develop, they start to close within the first few years of our birth.
This condition can develop in the second trimester of pregnancy but occurs more frequently in the third trimester. Typical symptoms to watch out for: the gap between the Transverse Abdominis muscles becomes 2.5 cm or more or a bulging in the muscles becomes visible on exertion.
Almost 35% to 66 % of women can be affected by Diastasis Recti during and after pregnancy. Pregnant women experience this condition due to weakness in abdominal musculature resulting from maternal hormone influences and an increased stretch of rectus abdominus due to expanding uterus.
Diastasis Recti is not only found in postpartum women but can also occur in overweight men and women who have never been pregnant.
Problems with Diastasis Recti
Our abdominal wall plays an important role in the core and pelvic stability. Movements that involve the core, respiration, core, and back support, correct posture while performing everyday activities – all of these depend on the strength of the abdominal wall.
The appearance of DR will impair these functionalities. Common problems include:
- Impaired pelvic stability
- Inability to stabilize the core
- Development of improper body posture
- Lower back pain
- Urinary incontinence
- An umbilical hernia
- Decreased quality of life
Also, some women look pregnant even after several years of giving birth, no matter how many ab exercises they do.
- Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat
- Place your fingers above the navel and press down
- Lift your head, neck, and shoulders
- Feel your abdominal muscles come together (close)
- Measure the width of the gap with your fingers
If the abdominal muscle gap is greater than 2 finger widths (~ 3 cm), you probably have Diastasis Recti which needs to be taken care of. Special steps must be taken to minimize the gap. At the very least, you need to ensure that the gap doesn’t increase.
Doctors can measure the gap between your abdominal muscles to determine the severity of your condition using Calipers, a CT scan or an Ultrasound.
Correct Posture and Transverse Abdominis Engagement
New mothers need to be made aware of proper posture and its importance. The way she sits, stands, lifts objects from the floor, bends down, carries and breastfeeds her baby – all these actions need to be carried out using proper posture.
Transverse Abdominis activation or engagement plays an important role as well. Proper breathing techniques while performing corrective exercises can help reduce or prevent the gap.
How to activate Transverse Abdominis muscles:
- Relax the abdominal muscles and inhale.
- Exhale and gently draw in the abdominal muscles towards the spine (it should not feel as if you’re sucking in the abs).
- Pull the pelvic floor upwards keeping the spine neutral.
Exercises to avoid
One must avoid intense abdominal and core exercises. These activities put pressure on already weak abdominal muscles and will cause them to separate more rather than heal.
- All kinds of ab crunches
- Ab exercises that involve core twists
- Hanging Knee / Leg Raises
- Any exercise that involves lifting both legs off the floor
- Exercises that make your core bulge out
It has been found that isometric contraction of abdominal muscles will help reduce the gap between the Transverse Abdominis muscles. Exercises that involve drawing in abdominal muscles are more effective and gentler than abdominal crunches.
- Perform exercises such as Pelvic Tilts, Leg Slide, Pelvic Pillow Squeeze, Glute Bridge, Lying Single Leg Raise.
- Performing pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises also helps strengthen abdominal muscles, as Linea Alba is interdependent with the function of the pelvic floor.
- Functional exercises such as Squats and Lunges are also found to be beneficial.
Good body posture during and after pregnancy along with core, pelvic floor muscle and lower body strengthening exercises will prevent the abdominal split from occurring in the first place. If your abdominal muscles are already separating, you can minimize it. Surgery is required only in some severe cases. In such cases, it is always best to consult a physical therapist to know about your Diastasis Recti and its severity. But as with most ailments, prevention is better than cure! Hope this article provides you with the information you need.
Author Credits: Sindhu Monish