WHAT IS DIASTASIS RECTI?
Diastasis Recti, also referred to as ‘Divarication of the Recti’ or ‘Rectus Divarification’, is the widening of the gap between the 2 sections of the Rectus Abdominis (or 6 pack) abdominal muscle.
The split occurs at the Abdominal Raphe (Linea Alba and Linea Semiluniaris), the seam of mid-line collagen structures of connective tissue at the front of the abdomen. This connective tissue stretches (weakening in the process) to form a diastasis.
The Abdominal Raphe can now no longer provide tension and stability. All the abdominal muscles meet at the front of your abdomen – so when the linea alba stretches and leaves a gap – it takes all your ab muscles with it. And because ALL the muscles of the abdomen- Transversalis, internal and external obliques, as well as Rectus Abdominis – meet at this centre midline, all are compromised, and the resultant lack of protection and stability affects the whole body both aesthetically and functionally.
It is common in the later stages of pregnancy, particularly second or subsequent pregnancies. But men, children and women who have never had a baby, get a diastasis too.
100% of women may have some level of diastasis of the rectus abdominis in the third trimester. (Gilliard and Brown 1996, Diane Lee 2013)
For many women the gap remains widened at 8 weeks postpartum, and left untreated, the gap at 8 weeks remains unchanged at 1 year postpartum. (Coldron et al 2008, Liaw et al 2011)
66% of women with diastasis recti have some level of pelvic floor dysfunction (Spitznagle et al 2007). Diastasis recti and pelvic floor problems often go together.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’VE GOT IT?
You may see a ‘pooching’ or ‘doming’ of your stomach, especially when coming up from a lying position on your back. Sometimes you appear still a few months pregnant. As well as the aesthetic concerns, diastasis recti is associated with a weak core (and pelvic floor), leading to a lack of strength and stability in the entire pelvic region and midsection.
To test for a diastasis: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Relax your head and shoulders and place your fingers (palm facing you) just above your belly button.
Lift your head and neck very slightly off the floor and press down with your fingertips. If you feel a gap, that’s the diastasis. You will feel the muscles close in around your fingers as you lift your head and neck. Don’t lift your shoulders. Repeat the test in two other place: directly over the belly button, and a couple of inches below.
A diastasis recti gap is measured in finger width’s. You are aiming for a 1-2 finger gap or less, but don’t panic if it’s much bigger at first.
Even more important than the width of the gap though, is the tension (or lack of tension) in the midline – the linea alba. Contracting the muscles should create tension and resistance to your application of gentle pressure with your fingers to the midline. If it doesn’t – you have some re-connecting to do…
WATCH THE VIDEO: DIASTASIS RECTI SYMPTOMS
WHAT CAUSES DIASTASIS RECTI?
Diastasis Recti is the result of excessive intra-abdominal pressure or loading. That’s pressure pushing outwards, un-contained as it should be by fully functioning core musculature.
It happens when the body is not aligned in a way that allows the core and pelvic muscles to do their job effectively. Your ribs may be thrust out over your pelvis, your obliques may be super-tight, your shoulder girdle may be under constant tension… these or many other alignment or movements habits could be causing the 2 sides of your abdominal muscles to be pulled away from the midline of your body.
The Rectus Abdominis is only 1 of 4 layers of abdominal muscles: the Transverse Abdominis (deepest muscle layer) the Interior and Exterior Obliques (next 2 layers) that form your waist, and then the Rectus Abdominis is on the outside.
When the 2 parts of the muscle come further apart, the connective mid-line is stretched and weakened as it takes all other muscular and fascial support structures along with it. This leaves the front of the abdomen unsupported and unstable. The Raphe is designed to be taut, at full length and aligned in a vertical (breastbone to pubic bone) plane. But it cannot perform or function optimally when alignment is ‘out’.
So it’s WHOLE BODY ALIGNMENT we need to address, to address a diastasis.
‘DOING THE EXERCISES’ IS ONLY PART OF THE ANSWER, BECAUSE IT IS THE WAY YOU ARE USING AND MOVING YOUR BODY ALL THE TIME, THAT IS CAUSING THE DIASTASIS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Diastasis Recti is a symptom of excessive and unsupported intra abdominal pressure, the same state that creates other pelvic and abdominal problems including hernia and prolapse. DR should therefore be treated as part of an integrated program designed to re-align, re-connect and then strengthen the entire core musculature, rather than be addressed in isolation (and rather than focussing only on ‘closing the gap’).
We made you a cool infographic* too! View it here.
WATCH THE VIDEO: HOW TO TEST FOR DIASTASIS
HOW DO I FIX IT?
First and foremost you need to adjust your whole body alignment and stretch and work your muscles to get a strong functioning core and pelvic floor. You can narrow the gap, as well as strengthen and flatten your abs with the right exercise. You can lose fat. MUTU System‘s quite good for all of that incidentally. But you might not *fuse* the 2 parts of the rectus abdominis muscle tightly back together again. Which is actually, perfectly OK.
Diastasis recti is a problem when it contributes to a weak, unstable core, when your back hurts, your tummy sticks out and your pelvic floor doesn’t quite work.
It is a problem when: the connective tissue is stretched and the muscles of your core can no longer support your pelvic and abdominal region; when the gap is wide or the mid-line weak.
A problematic Diastasis Recti is a result of excessive intra-abdominal pressure. Pressure that the muscles of your abdomen and pelvic floor can’t withstand as they should.
It’s the same excessive, uncontain-able pressure that causes hernia or prolapse. You have excessive intra abdominal pressure because your core (that’s your abdominal muscles, along with your pelvic floor and the muscles of your lower back) are not working optimally. Your pelvis is not aligned quite right, your core is not doing its job quite right – of containing that natural pressure. Address your alignment as a priority and your body can start to fix itself.
Lose the fat covering up your strong, toned tummy. (That part’s important BTW. A few pounds of flesh sitting on top of your muscles, parted or not, are going to make your tummy hang out. Just sayin’)
Nourish your body to heal so the collagen will regenerate so the midline of your abdomen can regenerate and gain strength.
Will a small gap remain? Possibly. Does it matter? Not really. And Measuring It All the Time is definitely not helping.
How do you know when you’re ready to work out more intensively? To run, plank, Crossfit, Zumba, or do your thing…? This is how.
Recent research has shown that binding or splinting to close a diastasis is neither helpful nor anatomically correct in principle.
Rather, a Whole Body approach to restoring ability to connect with and recruit (use) the deep muscles of your core correctly is vital to gaining function and strength. Merely pulling the gap closed… isn’t.
WATCH THE VIDEO: DIASTASIS RECTI TREATMENT
THE MUTU SYSTEM PROGRAM
MUTU System is for women who want their bodies to look, feel and function better after having a baby. Even if it’s a long time since having a baby.
They want a core and a pelvic floor that work, that feel right and that do their job.
It’s for women who want to lose weight after childbirth and keep it off.
It’s the definitive, medically endorsed Mummy Tummy Workout System, created by postpartum fitness expert, Wendy Powell.
An international best-selling, industry acclaimed, award winning, holistic, realistic and supportive exercise and recovery program for Moms that truly works.
A proven, truly effective, tried and tested solution for ‘mummy tummy’, diastasis recti, pelvic floor weakness and core that isn’t as functional or strong as you’d like it to be.
*(Please note that our infographics, including the one on this page, are protected by copyright. We made them. We love it when you share our stuff, but please play nice and do so in complete original form and with credit).