Diastasis recti is a hot topic within the pre and postnatal fitness realm right now. But what exactly is it?
One of the most obvious changes to occur in pregnancy is the expansion of the abdomen increasing the separation between the rectus abdominis (commonly referred to as the ‘6 pack’ muscles).
These muscles are joined together by connective tissue known as the linea alba which stretches and expands during pregnancy.
For most women the linea alba regains strength and tension within the first couple of months after having their baby and the separation returns to within a ‘normal range’ spontaneously.
A 2 cm or less separation (or gap) is considered to be a ‘normal’ range.
However it isn’t just the size of gap that we take into consideration when we determine what is and what isn’t a ‘diastasis’.
It is thought that if the linea alba cannot create adequate tension it becomes less efficient.
Current research indicates that the goal of diastasis management is not to close the gap but the ability of the linea alba to generate tension through it (Diane Lee, 2011).
Having said that…diastasis isn’t just about the linea alba.
The linea alba is one component of the abdominal wall.
The abdominal wall is one component of a system known as the ‘core’.
The ‘core’ is one component of the entire body.
Our bodies are controlled and influenced by many factors including genetics, hormones, the amount of nutrition available to us, the amount of nutrients we absorb and our movement and breathing patterns.
There are therefore many factors that influence a diastasis.
So when we consider what a ‘diastasis’ is we must consider the bigger picture and the body (and person) as a whole.
Signs and Symptoms
How do I know if I have a diastasis?
Somebody with a diastasis may notice a visible gap between their rectus abdominis, a squishiness when they touch down into the gap or an altered looking abdomen.
Some women experience abdominal bloating or describe feeling as if they still look pregnant.
Some may notice a coning or doming effect along the midline of the rectus abdominis upon movement such as overhead pulling, planks, crunches or simply going from lying to standing.
Diastasis dysfunction often exists along with back pain, pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction (stress urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse).
Each individual will experience diastasis differently.
There is no way at present to predict who exactly will develop diastasis dysfunction.
Exercise and diastasis
Currently there is no proven way to prevent diastasis dysfunction.
And there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ‘healing’ a diastasis.
However if we choose to exercise during pregnancy and postpartum it’s important that we have strategies to meet the demands of that particular exercise.
Having a diastasis is not a reason to avoid exercise yet it is something that we must take into consideration in our exercise selection and HOW we perform that exercise.
Learning how to manage pressure within the abdomen to prevent repetitive strain on stretched and vulnerable connective tissue area is important during exercise and everyday tasks to avoid injury.
I am concerned about diastasis what should I do?
If you are, or think you might be affected by diastasis recti dysfunction, speak to your healthcare provider and ask for a referral to see a specialist known as a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist.
You can refer yourself to these specially trained physiotherapists in private practice also.
In the fitness setting, work with a coach who understands your needs at this time.
I encourage you to ask the important questions.
Find out if your coach really knows how to help you.
Do they know about diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction?
Can they train you appropriately and according to your needs at this time?
Please get in contact if you would like an more information.
The information herein is not a substitute for medical advise. Always speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
Lee D, 2011. The Pelvic Girdle Fourth Edition p 133