Diastasis recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis (six-pack) muscles, that at the midline of your stomach.
It is a condition most common to women during pregnancy and postpartum.
Diastasis recti occurs as a result of the uterus stretching the abdominal muscles to accommodate your growing baby.
The abdomen has connective tissue that runs along the midline, from your sternum to pubic bone, called the linea alba.
The linea alba softens and becomes laxer during pregnancy, which allows the abdominal wall to expand.
Your abdominal muscles don’t rip apart. They are not torn; they’re just wider apart compared to their pre-pregnancy position.
How To Know When You Have Diastasis Recti (symptoms).
The foremost sign of diastasis recti you’d notice is a bulge in your stomach. Other symptoms include bloating, constipation, lower back pain, poor posture, etc.
For the purpose of certainty, however, after the recommended waiting period of about two weeks postpartum, do your first assessment to ascertain if you have diastasis recti:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor at a 90-degree angle, like you are about to perform a glute bridge. Lift your shirt up to expose your belly or better still put on something short like a sports bra that’ll support what you’re about to do.
- Walk your hand along the midline of your belly to get a semblance of tension in the linea alba. Preferably, start from right under your sternum and work your way down towards your pubic bone, straight down that line. Feel if there are areas that are sort of softer than others. Press your fingers way down into your belly, and feel if the tissue feels supportive or loose when you press into it.
- Tuck your chin in towards your chest and slowly lift your head off the floor. Only your head should come off the floor. Keep your shoulders down. Using the three middle fingers of one hand, press straight down into your belly just above the belly button. Measure three fingers wide above the belly button and do the head lift test at this site.
- Repeat a couple of times if needed, adding or taking one finger away to get an accurate measurement with the same, very small head lift (not a full crunch).
- Repeat the test below the belly button, with the same three-fingers wide spacing.
- Re-test at all three measurement sites, but this time, do the core and floor connection breath (gently contract your pelvic floor upwards) on your exhale breath and then do your head lift test.
How Often Should You Re-assess?
A good exercise routine, coupled with periodic assessments, (recommend re-assessing every 2–3 weeks) is effective for resolving diastasis recti.
At the very least, this will typically give you good feedback as to whether your exercises are effective.
Exercises To Correct Diastasis Recti
1. Improve Your Posture. Quit Slouching
Stand up straight without keeping your core muscles engaged while standing. Make sure your shoulder is always in line with your hips so that your back isn’t overly arched.
Tuck your chin in and distribute your weight evenly on both feet.
Support your posture by rooting all 4 corners of your feet into the ground. Engage your legs, and core to stand up straight.
It will take practice, no doubt but good posture becomes a habit if you’re consistent.
Have you read: Must Have Pregnancy Essentials
Standing with your hips and stomach pushing forward and your shoulders slouched, can lead to diastasis recti.
A poor posture weakens your core, inner abdominal muscles, gluteus, and trapezius muscles.
2. Do Modified Crunches To Manually Lull The Abdominal Muscles Together
In place of the standard crunches, you could lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent.
Put your hands or a towel or belly band around your waist and pull your right and left abdominal muscles together.
Take deep breaths to expand your belly and exhale slowly while contracting your abs.
Suck them inward and raise your head off the floor, then go back to the starting position and repeat 10-12 reps for about 3 sets or as many as your body feels comfortable with.
Modified crunches are safe and effective exercises for strengthening the core muscles when you perform them correctly.
Because if you do crunches incorrectly, it can instead worsen diastasis recti.
This is why you should in the first place, only perform these exercises after you’ve consulted with a doctor and preferably a personal trainer to ensure that you are using the correct form at all times.
3. Modified Push-ups
Modified push-ups are another great exercise routine to correct diastasis recti.
Get in a push-up position with your knees on the floor, keep your hands in line with your chest, and place them a few inches wider apart than your shoulders.
Then slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor. Keep your core tight, and exhale while pressing back up to the starting position.
Don’t let your lower back or hips drop toward the floor, and don’t raise your hips too high either.
4. Use A Stability Ball To Correct Diastasis Recti
You can make use of a stability ball to get a good sweat in a diastasis situation.
Sit on a stability ball and gently roll down until your lower back is resting comfortably on it.
Keep your feet directly below your knees and place your hands behind your neck to support your head. Breathe out while gently lifting your shoulder off the ball and pushing your hips up.
You may also find this article The Importance of Exercise During Pregnancy helpful
When performing a bridge on a stability ball, you want to rest your head comfortably on the ball with your neck in a neutral position. i.e., a 90-degree angle with your hips, knees, and ankles.
Squeeze your lower abs, glutes, and pelvic floor and breathe in while slowly lowering your shoulders and hips to the starting position.
Don’t relax your abs or arch your back over the ball when you return to the starting position, and remember to keep your core engaged the whole time.
Lower your hips toward the floor and then raise them back up.
Also, ensure your knees are over your ankles and not out in front of your toes.
5. Go Planking
Planks are super diastasis-friendly. Assume a plank position on your elbow or forearms.
Keep your hands directly under your shoulders.
You can plank on your toes or with your knees on the floor. It’s a great exercise for your abdominal muscles, glutes, pelvic floor, and inner thighs.
You want to keep your body straight and your hips from dropping down toward the floor because good form is more important than the length of time you hold the plank.
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