Seems like my newsfeed is full of advice and programs regarding diastasis recti these days. Many promising to “cure” the very common “problem”.
Diastasis Recti (DR), is classified as the separation between the left and right abdominal muscles which is commonly associated with pregnancy. DR is what is supposed to happen as our bodies adapt to our growing baby. In fact, research shows that 100% of women will have some degree of DR in the later stages of pregnancy(Mota et al 2014) and the abdominal may muscles stretch for some women (Brauman 2008). Within the first 8-weeks postpartum, the healing process will take place but for some women (like myself) the gap doesn’t completely close.
Is this a problem?
Maybe, maybe not. There is no one size fits all when it comes to our bodies. What I can say is that if there is still a gap post-pregnancy, you can still have a fully functional core. You see, it’s not the gap that we look at. The connective tissue that runs up and down the centre of your core, the Linea Alba, is what we’re assessing.
Is it squishy?
Can the gap close with a pelvic floor contraction (kegel)?
Can that tissue be engages with a pelvic floor contraction? Is there any bulging or tenting during certain movements?
How well is the intra-abdominal pressure managed through certain movements?
Are there other symptoms that accompany the DR?
Just because you have a DR, doesn’t mean you automatically have a pelvic floor dysfunction either! It may be something that’s looked at but it’s important to get all of the information before making recommendations as how you should proceed with exercise.
If you’re concerned about DR, get assessed. I always recommend a pelvic floor physio because they can get a better understanding of how your core is functioning from the inside and out.
You can also do a self assessment to get an idea of what you're working with. Check out the video below to learn how.
Does having a DR mean that you have to cut out crunching or planking?
Again, maybe, maybe not. This isn’t a one size fits all. Many may be perfectly fine doing a crunch or plank but for some, they may need to work up to those movements and learn how to effectively manage the intra-abdominal pressure before hand. But it you think about it, we’re always crunching in some form. It’s impossible to completely eliminate every single movement that creates a ton of pressure and if we tried, we’d spend our lives laying down.
I admit, I use to be very black and white. If you have a DR, you HAD to eliminate anything that could make it worse. It’s not practical in motherhood!
I work with women all the time who have been diagnosed with a DR and after assessing them, I find that they can manage their core well and will prescribe movements that are more challenging than the traditional core rehab exercises if they’ve been assessed by a physio and their are no underlying issues that need to be addressed. I also teach them strategies and techniques that help to manage the DR effectively. There may be no need to give up anything at all.
The truth is that if you want your DR to heal, it needs to be challenged. That may not be with crunches or planks but with movements that challenge the core without isolating it. Resistance bands and bodyweight moves are amazing. As you core and pelvic floor get stronger, you can up the ante a bit.
Just because you have a DR, doesn’t mean you’re going to have embarrassing leaks!
Don’t let your DR scare you.I have a DR and I was able to squat and deadlift more than my body weight. I had been assessed and worked on the rehab side following the birth of my baby.
What it comes down to is getting advice from a trained professional like a pelvic floor physiotherapist or a coach who has been specifically trained in core and pelvic floor dysfunctions. These people can help you make the RIGHT recommendations for you and your body. Getting advice from someone with a blanket program who has “cured” her own DR through her program that worked, may not be right for you.