What is Diastasis Recti and How To Treat It?
Dr. Pooja Shukla

Dr. Pooja Shukla

Apr 23Pregnancy and fertility

What is Diastasis Recti and How To Treat It?

This article has been compiled by Vaibhavi Kodnani, a content writer at Proactive For Her.

During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles get stretched to accommodate the growing baby in the uterus. Thus, the rectus abdominis or the ‘six pack’ muscles that are large abdominal muscles partially or completely separate. This common condition is termed as ‘diastasis recti’ or abdominal separation and mostly occurs during pregnancy and postpartum.



What are the risk factors of diastasis recti?

Your chances of getting affected with diastasis recti increase if you:

  • Are older than 35 during pregnancy
  • Are pregnant with twins
  • Have given birth to a particularly large baby
  • Are petite or of a small frame



What are the symptoms of diastasis recti?

There are visible signs of this condition such as a bulge in the stomach. Apart from that, it leads to many other discomforts such as:

  • Bulge in the stomach when abdominal muscles contract
  • Lower back pain
  • Weak abdominal muscles
  • Poor posture
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Difficulty performing lifting activities



How is this condition diagnosed?

To diagnose if you have diastasis recti, the doctor will physically examine you to check for any bulge that may be present above or below your belly button. Then, the doctor will ask you to raise your leg straight up while lying down on your back to check if the bulge amplifies. For a more accurate result and measurement, they may also use a calliper or an ultrasound for diagnosis.

Before consulting your doctor, you can even perform a self-assessment to check for this condition.

  • Lay a mat or bed sheet on the floor. Then, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Place the fingers of one hand on your midline at the navel.
  • Press your fingertips down gently, and slightly raise your head without raising your shoulders. The position would look like a mini crunch.
  • Using your fingers, feel for the sides of your rectus abdominis or six-pack muscles above, at and below the navel.
  • Check if these muscles are separated. If yes, try to understand how far they are separated.
  • The separation is examined in terms of finger widths. Experts say that separation of 2 or more fingers indicates diastasis recti.



What are the treatments of diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is a rather common condition experienced by pregnant women. It is curable with the help of certain exercises and other safety measures. Generally, it can take around 6 weeks to 3 months to completely heal this condition. However, in severe cases, recovery time can extend up to 6-12 months.

To treat lower back pain

  • During the day, you can support your lower back by wearing a binder or back support belt.
  • While sitting, place a rolled towel or pillow behind your back.
  • Avoid sitting on hard surfaces without support.
  • To get up from bed - bend your knees, roll to your side and then get up using the support of your arm. Do the same when you are trying to stand up.

To treat poor posture

  • Consciously practise a good posture.
  • Perform a few simple exercises daily to maintain a proper posture.

To stop the symptoms from escalating

  • Avoid lifting heavy things
  • Do not strain your abdominal muscles
  • During pregnancy, you must strengthen your core by exercising. However, remember to perform only the exercises advised by your doctor or physical therapist. Always perform any new exercises after consultation with your doctor.



Exercises to fix the diastasis recti

Various exercises can help strengthen the core muscles and help in fixing this condition. If it does not resolve after following the treatments and exercises; you can talk to your doctor about surgery.

You should avoid any movements or exercises that place strain on the midline or cause the belly muscles to pop out. For example, crunches. Your therapist will inform you about the exercises that are not suitable for your condition.

Diaphragmatic breathing

In this exercise, you need to stretch and perform deep breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing allows the core to function and heal.

Steps to do it:

  • Stretch into a lunge position.
  • Then, raise your arms above the head.
  • Inhale deeply and let your ribs expand outwards and sideways.

Reps: 5 repetitions

Heel slide with core activation

The next four exercises need to be performed while lying down on your back. They are simple movements to engage your core muscles and pelvic floor muscles. Also, remember to focus on your breath while doing these exercises.

Steps to do it:

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, slide one heel slowly along the ground.
  • Inhale and relax in that position.
  • Then, exhale and draw it back.
  • Repeat the same movement with the other leg.

Reps: 5 repetitions with each leg

Abduction with core activation

For this exercise, you will need an additional tool - a resistance band.

Steps to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Tie a resistance band around your knees.
  • Exhale while engaging your core muscles and pelvic floor.
  • Then, while inhaling, pull your knees apart.
  • Come back to the original position as you exhale.

Reps: 10 repetitions

Toe taps lying on back

Being slow and steady while performing these exercises is crucial. Be in no hurry; perform slow movements with complete consciousness.

Steps to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back and raise both your legs to a tabletop position. Your knees should be directly over your hips and calves parallel to the ground.
  • Do not arch your back.
  • Then take a deep breath. As you exhale, tap your right foot down to the floor.
  • Inhale as you return to the first position. Repeat the same motion with your left leg.

Reps: 10 repetitions

Bridging

This exercise got its name as you’ll be getting into a bridge-like position. The bridge is not only beneficial for strengthening your core muscles but also for relieving lower back pain.

Steps to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Your spine should gently press against the floor. Rest your arms on either side with palms facing downwards.
  • Take a deep breath in, and while exhaling, lift your pelvic area towards the ceiling.
  • Inhale again while holding the position.
  • On exhale, slowly come back on the floor.

Reps: 10 repetitions



What are the complications if diastasis recti are left untreated?

If diastasis recti are left untreated, it can worsen your existing symptoms and introduce newer ones too. Therefore, timely care is of utmost importance to prevent yourself from these complications.

  • Back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Poor posture
  • Damaged trunk stability and mobility
  • Hernia



What are the preventive measures for diastasis recti?

Regular exercise before, during and after pregnancy is the best way of preventing this condition from occurring. Before pregnancy, you must strengthen your abdominal muscles as they get stretched due to pregnancy. Strong abs can help prevent separation. Perform the exercises after consulting your doctor or physical therapist.



Bottom line

Diastasis recti can lead to many complications if not treated on time. You must take the required steps to prevent your symptoms from worsening. Do the necessary exercises to fix the position of your abdominal muscles. Illustrate a proper treatment plan with your doctor and therapist to heal your body.







Disclaimer : This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

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