How to Identify Diastasis Recti and What to Do About It

Diastasis recti is a common condition that affects many women during and after pregnancy. It can also occur in men and women who have never been pregnant. 

In this blog post, we will discuss how to identify diastasis recti, understand its causes and risk factors, and explore effective management and treatment options.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is a medical condition characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, which are the two large parallel bands of muscles that run vertically down the middle of the abdomen. 

These muscles play a vital role in supporting the spine, maintaining posture, and facilitating various physical movements. In individuals with diastasis recti, the connective tissue between the two muscle bands becomes stretched and weakened, resulting in a gap or separation between the muscles.

This condition is most commonly associated with pregnancy, as the growing uterus puts increased pressure on the abdominal muscles, causing them to stretch and separate. However, diastasis recti can also occur in men, women who have never been pregnant, and even infants. Factors such as significant weight gain, abdominal surgery, or improper exercise techniques can contribute to the development of diastasis recti.

Symptoms of Diastasis Recti

Symptoms of diastasis recti can include a noticeable bulge or “pooch” in the abdomen, especially when the muscles are engaged, such as during a crunch or sit-up. Other symptoms may include lower back pain, poor posture, difficulty in performing daily activities that require core strength, and, in some cases, constipation or difficulty with bowel movements.

Diagnosis of Diastasis Recti

Diagnosis of diastasis recti typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare provider or trained specialist, who will assess the width and depth of the separation between the abdominal muscles. 

Treatment for diastasis recti often includes targeted exercises to strengthen the deep core muscles and reduce the gap between the rectus abdominis muscles, as well as lifestyle modifications to promote overall health and well-being. In some cases, physical therapy or surgical intervention may be necessary to address the condition effectively.

It is crucial to recognize and address diastasis recti, as untreated cases can lead to long-term complications, such as chronic back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, and, in severe cases, hernias. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can help individuals with diastasis recti regain abdominal strength, improve posture, and prevent potential complications.

Causes and Risk Factors

The primary cause of diastasis recti is the increased pressure on the abdominal muscles due to pregnancy, weight gain, or abdominal surgery. Some of the risk factors that can contribute to diastasis recti include:

  • Pregnancy, especially multiple pregnancies or pregnancies with twins or triplets
  • Age (older individuals may have less elastic connective tissue)
  • Obesity
  • Abdominal surgery, such as a C-section or hernia repair
  • Performing improper abdominal exercises

How to Identify Diastasis Recti

To determine if you have diastasis recti, follow these steps:

  • Lie on your back: Find a comfortable surface, such as a yoga mat or carpeted floor, and lie down with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your fingers on your abdomen: Place one hand behind your head for support and use the other hand to find your belly button. Place two or three fingers horizontally across your abdomen, just above the belly button.
  • Perform a small crunch: While keeping your fingers on your abdomen, slowly lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground as if performing a small crunch.
  • Feel for a gap: As you lift your upper body, feel for a gap or separation between the muscles in your abdomen. If you can fit two or more fingers into the gap, you may have diastasis recti.

It’s essential to note that self-assessment is not a substitute for a professional evaluation. If you suspect you have diastasis recti, consult a healthcare provider or a trained specialist for a proper diagnosis.

What to Do if You Have Diastasis Recti

If you have been diagnosed with diastasis recti, there are several steps you can take to manage and improve the condition:

Perform Targeted Exercises

Certain exercises can help strengthen the deep core muscles and reduce the gap between the rectus abdominis muscles. Examples of these exercises include postural compensations and deep core breathing exercises.

Avoid Activities that Worsen the Condition

Certain movements and exercises can exacerbate diastasis recti. Avoid activities that involve straining, heavy lifting, or performing traditional abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups (see the next section for more details).

Wear Supportive Clothing

Wearing clothing that provides gentle compression and support to your abdominal area can help alleviate discomfort and provide additional support to your core muscles.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

A balanced diet and regular physical activity can help promote overall health and well-being, which can contribute to the healing process.

Consider Physical Therapy

A physical therapist or trained specialist can provide a customized treatment plan to address your specific needs and help you recover more effectively from diastasis recti.

Exercises to Avoid with Diastasis Recti

While exercising can be beneficial for individuals with diastasis recti, certain exercises can worsen the condition. Avoid the following activities if you have been diagnosed with diastasis recti:

Traditional Abdominal Exercises

Crunches, sit-ups, and leg lifts can place excessive strain on the abdominal muscles and increase the separation.

Planks and Push-Ups

These exercises require significant core engagement and can exacerbate diastasis recti.

Twisting Exercises

Exercises that involve twisting or rotating the torso, such as Russian twists or bicycle crunches, can further stress the abdominal muscles.

Heavy Lifting

Lifting heavy weights, especially with poor form, can increase the pressure on the abdominal muscles and worsen diastasis recti.

Always consult a healthcare professional or a trained specialist before starting any exercise program, especially if you have diastasis recti.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you suspect you have diastasis recti, it’s essential to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Consult a healthcare provider, physical therapist, or a trained specialist who can assess your condition and provide guidance on the best course of action.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the abdominal muscles and restore their proper function. However, this is usually only considered when conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and targeted exercises, have been ineffective in improving the condition.

Key Takeaways

Diastasis recti is a common condition that affects many individuals, especially pregnant women and new mothers. 

By understanding how to identify diastasis recti and following appropriate management and treatment strategies, you can help promote the healing process and improve your overall abdominal strength and function.

For more information about diastasis recti and which targeted exercises you can do to improve your condition, reach out to me today!