Some of my clients come in for a consult after being diagnosed with Diastasis Recti, talking about how surgery was their only option, but I can tell you now, it’s not!
It’s widely known as the “mommy pouch”, but it’s clinically known and diagnosed as Diastasis Recti, or Diastasis Rectus Abdominus, is a “partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis, or “six-pack” muscles, which meet at the midline of your stomach” and it’s very common during and after pregnancy, this usually occurs because of the growing uterus plus baby, stretches the muscles in the abdomen, to accommodate a growing baby, this is not the only huge body change caused by pregnancy, however, it is fairly common, as around 60% of women can experience it, either in pregnancy or postpartum.
I, myself, experienced it with my second daughter, it was a heartbreaking diagnosis at the time, there was fear of moving, and also discomfort going along with that, all of that plus the very overwhelming feeling of being a mom of a newborn plus a child. This, added to other postpartum conditions I was experiencing, threw me in the deep end, showed me the way out was through and with Pelvic PT, which then lead to me completely falling in love with this wonderful career.
Something worth noting with Diastasis, is that it’s not limited to pregnancy alone, and it’s not a “women’s only” condition, as a matter of fact, I’ve had male patients suffer with after a weight lifting injury, seeing a full recovery, you can learn more about this one on one of my recent Instagram posts!
What Causes Diastasis Recti?
Like previously mentioned, pregnancy is a huge factor in it, however, there are a few different causes that some people don’t really know about, and some of this could be making your existing DRA worst.
- Pregnancy and postpartum
- Incorrect weight lifting
- Excessive weight shift (overweight)
- Excessive abdominal exercise
- Unsafe or non-prescribed abdominal exercises
The last 2 can come as a shock, but a lot of work out programs out there rely heavily on ab-related routines, and while I’m not one to discourage movement, we must be incredibly mindful on how these movements might be affecting our bodies, most importantly, if our form is correct, if the muscles that need to be engaged in order to protect our core and back are actually engaged!
There are a ton of exercises you can do with DRA, however, I recommend having a PT evaluate you before you jump ahead into any of them, it’s much better to prevent injury than to heal it after it occurs!
I’m sure there are tons of options offered out there, and I’m even more sure they have reached incredible results in many patients, however, here are some of the ones that I myself have seen working in patients, including surgery, which often gets offered to patients with no other suggestions or routes, so let me explain why!
-Surgery: it’s best to be done after 6-12 months being postpartum and doing PT if the results are nowhere near the place we’d like to be, the reason for this is mostly because during this time the Diastasis can naturally be healed. Even so, I’d suggest you can do so later than this, however, for some patients it can be a case of aesthetics and comfort, however, this doesn’t mean the work with PT is done, we can still have a few exercises after surgery to rehab the core, and strengthen those muscles back up. Pelvic PT should have a multifaceted approach, as at the end of the day the goal is to get patients back to feeling absolutely normal.
-Pelvic PT options: ideally Pelvic PT should begin at the 6 week mark of the postpartum period, where we can evaluate how the body is adapting to it all, and prescribing a set of exercises targeted to your particular case, the shape of your muscle separation, the length, and the depth, all of these play a part in how we are going to approach the recovery, along with a extensive understanding of your daily routine to fix certain aspects, I like to call them hidden aspects that can be affecting the recovery, so let’s go through some of them:
- Posture: this one is not often talked enough about, posture comes in many different forms and it’s not just the way we are standing, but also the way we move in our daily life, specially as new moms, how we are lifting our baby, how are we carrying that new weight, breastfeeding, picking up things and putting them back down. It’s all a new adjustment, now more than ever after the center or gravity changes yet again once the baby is out.
- Motivation: more than once I’ve had to give a patient a big pep talk about their recovery, this is key at least in my practice. DRA recovery can take up to a year, it’s not an easy fix, therefore it can be very discouraging for patients who feel like they have been working so hard and see so little results, this is why motivation and a shift of perspective is needed, the mindset should always be in healing and feeling better.
- Diet: I’m not a big fan of that word, or what it entails, however, it’s good for us to understand better what can we consume in order to have a smoother sailing recovery, avoiding foods that can provoke bloating is key, so it’s much better to reduce their consumption, or take them out of our diet if possible!
How can PT help Diastasis Recti?
I think the most important thing PT does for a Diastasis Recti patient, is giving them back a sense of normalcy, implementing a space for routine, and a dedicated time to connect with themselves while practicing self love. Obviously this isn’t the only thing it does.
Pelvic PT can help patients with Diastasis Recti to:
- Improve their core strength
- Reduce the length and depth of their Gap
- Have better core control -Improve their Pelvic floor’s strength and flexibility
- Reduce leaking
- Reduce back pain
- Improve overall quality of life
Do you suffer with Diastasis recti? Know you are not alone in this! In fact, I have a Private Facebook Group dedicated to helping you heal Diastasis recti, want in? Click here!