1. What is Diastasis Recti, and how do I know if I have it? Diastasis Recti is when the two halves of your Rectus Abdominis (6-pack muscle) separate beyond the natural amount. It is natural to have a small space between the two halves. (Most experts consider a gap of 1 finger width or less to be normal, and a gap of 2 fingers or more (about 25mm or 1in) to be Diastasis Recti.) It’s also natural for this space to become wider during pregnancy as the muscles and connective tissue stretch. It will be hard for you to tell if your muscles have spread a “natural pregnancy amount” or a “wider-than-natural pregnancy amount”. For this reason, I don’t recommend that you check yourself for DR when you are pregnant. There will be a gap, and it will freak you out unnecessarily.
DR is not a disease; it is a symptom of excessive intra-abdominal pressure, muscle tension and weakness, misalignment, and a core that is not functioning well. There are already so many good articles out there covering this question…why reinvent the wheel, right? For a full explanation of what it is and how to check for it, read this article from Mutu System’s Wendy Powell.
2. How do I heal it? Can I close the gap? Diastasis Recti is best healed by addressing your whole body alignment and changing the way you move in everyday life. I know that sounds like a HUGE undertaking (and it is), but there are some simple things you can do right now to bring profound changes. Start with these 5 Steps to a Stronger Core. It takes time to rehabilitate your core. Be very wary of people or programs that claim to have a “quick fix” or guarantee certain results….like this program that got a lot of press recently. You can read a GREAT response to this article here. (Seriously, it’s really good and it articulates my thoughts exactly.) It’s important to know that the gap might not necessarily close all the way, and that is ok. You can still have a strong and functional core with a small gap. In addition to changing the way you move and moving more, you can try exercises specifically designed to release tension in the trunk and help you reconnect with these muscles.
3. What core exercises are safe to do? I work with a lot of women who have DR and want to restore their core function, but they’re scared to do any type of core exercise because they’ve heard traditional core work, like crunches, can worsen their condition (and it can). Imagine squeezing a balloon. The displaced air has to go somewhere, and the increased pressure would cause the balloon to bulge. The same thing happens in your abdominal and pelvic cavities. Many abdominal exercises increase the intra-abdominal pressure, which pushes the contents of the belly forward and/or down. It’s pushing forward against the connective tissue that is already compromised or down on your pelvic floor, which is especially problematic if you are already experiencing incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. There are a lot of core exercises that are safe, but they might not look like the core exercises you are used to. Here are a few you can try as a safe and gentle way to start reconnecting with your abdominal muscles. These can also be done during pregnancy!
4. What else can I do?
- Come to my Abs Before & After Birth workshop on April 12! Details and registration here.
- Do these alignment snacks: twisting the night away, let’s do the twist, and just a dab of abs.
- Check out the book Diastasis Recti: the whole body solution to abdominal weakness and separtaion, an excellent guide for anyone experiencing core and/or pelvic floor dysfunction (they often go together). It’s full of scientific explanations, practical tips and exercises.
- Read more about alignment and core function under my additional resources tab. (scroll to the bottom)
- Listen to these podcasts by Katy Bowman on the subject.