If you’ve had a baby in recent years, you may have heard about a condition called diastasis recti. If you haven’t, let me first explain what it is.
Diastasis recti is basically a fancy way of saying that your abdominal muscles have separated down the middle of your stomach. This condition is usually accompanied by what has become known as the “mommy tummy”, or a bulge in your abdomen that won’t go away even after you’ve lost the baby weight. Diastasis recti can also cause a weak pelvic floor, urine incontinence, lower back problems, and weak core strength.
At one time, this condition was thought to be cured only through expensive surgery and physical therapy. Thankfully, in recent years diastasis recti has gotten a lot more attention and not only are women being educated on what this condition is, but researchers have also discovered that it is treatable without the need for surgery in most cases.
So, what causes diastasis recti?
A majority of the time, it is caused by pregnancy and the rapid growth of your belly, causing your abdominals to split from the pressure. It is more common to develop this condition with subsequent pregnancies, but if you’re really lucky like I was, you can definitely get it the first time around.
It is a common misconception, however, that pregnancy is the only cause of diastasis recti, or that it is an unavoidable side effect of pregnancy. There are other ways you can develop this condition, just as there are steps you can take during your pregnancy to avoid it.
Did you know that men can develop abdominal separation as well? And since I don’t know of any men who have birthed children, it’s safe to say that pregnancy is not what causes a man to develop diastasis recti.
So what other things cause it?
Diastasis recti can be caused by improper posture, (excuse me while I check myself and sit up straighter) rolling your shoulders forward and slumping over puts undue pressure on your abdominals, causing them to bulge forward. On the other hand, overextending your shoulders and causing your ribs to separate, stretches your abdomen apart, also causing undue pressure. The goal is to always have a neutral spine that is neither rolling forward or stretching back.
Another cause is your workout routine. Improper exercises can not only worsen an existing separation, but they can also cause a healthy core to become weak and separate. Anytime you are performing a move that causes your abdomen to bulge forward, even when you are trying to engage your core, it is an unsafe exercise. Crunches, sit-ups, double leg lifts, and front planks are examples of moves that weaken your inner core and should be avoided completely!
In order to keep a healthy core safe, or to close an existing gap, you want to make sure that anytime you exert effort, whether during a workout or while cleaning your house, you pull your abdominals up and into the spine. This ensures that your deep inner abdominal muscles are engaged, keeping your belly from bulging forward while also helping to strengthen the inner core muscles that are susceptible to weakness and separation.
Pelvic floor exercises are something that should be done daily. Your inner abdominal muscles are connected to your pelvic floor and weakness in one area is likely to cause weakness in another.
If you are unsure whether you have abdominal separation or not, here is a video that will show you how to perform a self-check to determine if you have diastasis recti, and how wide and deep that separation may be.
If you find that you do have a separation, it is important to always be mindful of your posture, breathing, and engaging your inner core throughout the day. keeping gas and bloating under control will help you in your efforts to close the gap, as well as performing gentle daily exercises designed to strengthen your deep core muscles and avoiding anything that causes your stomach to bulge forward. If you don’t have diastasis recti, it’s still important to keep in mind that not all core exercises are beneficial.