Diastasis Recti is the tearing of tissue in your abdomen. The torn tissue is the linea alba which holds together the rectus abdominus. The Rectus abdominus is the wall of muscle in the front of your abdomen. Actually, it as made of two walls of muscle, or columns, held together by a zipper-like tissue, these columns are what form your “six pack”.
About 30% of women experience this tearing through pregnancy and/or childbirth. The amount of tearing varies and depends on; the strength and elasticity of the tissue prior to pregnancy, the amount of swelling of the abdomen (more common with multiple births) and the length and intensity of delivery. Most of the time, this tearing is not dangerous and will not hinder your everyday life. However, depending on the severity, you may experience a lack of mobility, back and pelvic pain resulting from overworking of the stabilizer muscles, a hernia and permanent tissue damage. In addition, certain movements may exacerbate the injury and prolong the healing process and if the healing is incomplete before conceiving again this can cause even more problems the second time around.
While diastasis recti is for the most part, harmless enough, many physicians, physio- therapists, and trainers believe that it is more prevalent than it should be. In other words, there is a number of women out there who can minimize the tearing if not prevent it all together. A proper diet to fuel the healing process and keep tissues strong and elastic as well as practicing breathing techniques can help minimize the tearing. In addition, a number of simple core exercises practiced pre pregnancy or during can help prevent the tearing for some women. The same exercises, with a variety of others, can be performed postpartum to help the healing process, strengthen the pelvic floor and lower back.
If you have Diastasis recti or would like to do your best to prevent it, find a personal trainer, preferably one who has specialized in prenatal/postnatal fitness or one who is familiar with this injury. If you have a trainer and they are prescribing sit-ups, crunches or core exercises with major rotations…find another trainer.
The safest exercises are simple with small movements that activate the transverse abdominus and the anterior pelvic floor muscle. A number of exercises simply require you to ‘draw in’ your belly – pulling your belly button towards your spine – while lying down, kneeling, sitting or standing. Eventually, movement can be added, or positions can be altered to activate the lower back muscles, glutes and so on. In some cases, when the separation is more severe, a wrap may be used to bring the rectus abdominus together as you practice your exercises.
If you want to find out if you have diastasis recti follow these simple instructions and do not panic if the separation seems severe, just act sooner than later to start the healing process:
Lie down with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor as if to do a sit-up or crunch.
Place your fingers on your abdomen just above your belly button. We measure the diastasis by finger width so place your hand palm down and fingers pointing towards your feet.
Slowly lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground as if doing a crunch and feel for a gap in the center of your abdomen. If you feel a gap the width of a finger or more, that is diastasis, you may feel your muscles close in around your fingers as you perform the crunch. You can repeat this test, moving your fingers down your abdomen to feel the length of the separation but do not do too many crunches and perform them nice and slowly.
If a gap is there, notify your physician and find a trainer who can help you. It might be costly, but proper guidance is paramount in avoiding long-term injury and pain. If you eat well, minimize your stress and practice your exercises diligently the healing process can be a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months.