Diastasis Recti is a separation of the muscles along the midline of the stomach. It’s a common occurrence during pregnancy. As many as 60% of pregnant women experience diastasis recti. As your baby grows and belly expands, the muscles can separate to create more space.
Healing the abdominal wall is possible with both physical therapy and Pilates. Be sure you have the green light from your doctor for exercise before beginning.
How Do You Know If You Have Diastasis Recti?
During a postnatal doctor visit, you may ask your practitioner to check for you. However, it’s easy enough to self evaluate.
Begin by laying down with your abdominals relaxed. Place your fingers on your belly button, curl your head up. If you feel a separation of the muscles at least two fingers wide, you have diastasis recti. Women pregnant with multiples or who are overweight, can be prone to a larger separation in the abdominal wall. The muscle separation can occur anywhere along the midline of the abdominals. The location can depend on how high or low the baby was carried in utero.
Common symptoms include lower back pain, poor posture, constipation, bloating and a softened belly.
How Can You Treat Diastasis Recti?
With extreme diastasis recti or being new to exercise, it’s best to work with a physical therapist. You’ll learn exercises to merge the abdominal wall together. Your PT can also utilize neuromuscular electrical stimulation in your sessions.
A study done on post natal women with diastasis recti showed that while exercise helped every single woman minimize the space the their abdominal wall, the use of neuromuscular electrical stimulation advanced their healing process even more in the same period of time. (1)
You can also work with a Pilates instructor. While you won’t have access to NES, you can make progress through exercise. Your instructor will guide you through safe and effective exercises to strengthen your transverse abdominals. This is the lower layer of muscles, under the abdominal wall that is separated in diastasis recti. To activate this muscle, you’ll work on zipping your ribcage together with a corset feel, while scooping your belly in and up. This corset-like layer of muscles will merge the abdominal wall, flatten your stomach and strengthen your lower back.
Traditional crunches and planks need to be avoided. They can make diastasis recti worse.
Pilates has hundreds of exercises that strengthen the core without the forward flexion in a crunch.
How Long Does It Take To Heal Diastasis Recti?
Depending on the severity of your diastasis recti, it can take anywhere from 6-12 months of consistent work. It is recommended to work with a PT or Pilates instructor three times a week. ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates in Peachtree City, GA can help you get started on your healing process today.