Moms: Do You Have Diastasis Recti?
This month I am focusing on diastasis recti (DR). So many women experience DR after pregnancy and don’t know how to work on fixing it or what it even means. Maybe you have googled it and found contradicting information and are left confused and overwhelmed. This newsletter will help you understand what DR is and some myths about it.
First, let’s start with a quick understanding of what DR is (here’s a link!).
#1 My Abs Are Torn
No, your abs are not torn! As stated in the video your rectus abdominus (6 pack) is connected in center by connective tissue known as the linea alba. It stretches from your ribs to pubic bone. When there is a great deal of pressure put on the LA it stretches out. So, you are seeing and feeling the 2 muscle bellies of the rectus abdominis pull away from each other instead of being able to stay in their position. As a result of the stretched tissue in the front, your muscles and organs don’t have the support they need, hence the doming abdomen, or “pooch”.
#2 The Size of my Gap Matters
This is one of the most common myths. I’m here to tell you that the size of the gap actually does not matter. There are very strong and functional people who have a gap. Sometimes there is a gap present with no weakness or problems. Conversely, sometimes there is no gap with troubles and symptoms! We actually look more at the depth of the gap and the ability of that tissue to transfer tension and load when the core is firing as a predictor of success. You may be rock solid stronger than you ever were before and still have a “gap” upon testing. We do pay attention to the width of the gap to note progress and see how the muscles are approximating when they work, and a very large gap does take some extra focus and training to get the system coming together and controlling the pressure…but it is not the only factor (or even the main factor) that matters.
#3 I Have Weak Abs so I got a DR
There are a variety of factors that may lead to DR. Your core system actually includes not only your abs, but also your pelvic floor, low back stabilizers, and breathing diaphragm. Its job is to control the normal intra-abdominal pressure that builds up with our daily activities. It’s not only about strength – it’s about coordination, form, muscle timing, strategy, and a system that is working well together to do it’s job. When something is off, you can get forward pressure which pulls on the tissue and makes a gap. Getting to the root cause, which often has to do with imbalanced muscle recruitment, improper breathing patterns, and/or inefficient habitual movement patterns, is the key!
#4 Surgery is the Only Way to Fix
This one is a big misconception. It is NEVER too late to heal and people can make a difference in their strength, control, and appearance even YEARS after birth. It’s about teaching the body to use this core system effectively so it stops leaking pressure and power out the front of your abdomen! There are of course cases where surgery is very appropriate and very successful, but many times, learning about your body and what is happening is the first step in figuring out how to make a change. Often surgery does not help because you only addressed the symptom not the actual problem.
#5 My Pregnancy Gave Me DR
Not necessarily. Yes, DR happens most often as a result of pregnancy but all the issues I mentioned above can happen in any body. Including men! Many factors affect this core system and the integrity of our connective tissue, including pregnancy, injury, surgery, postural changes, breathing patterns, activity level, pain patterns, etc
#6 I Just Need to do Harder “Ab Work”
Strength only happens with balance and coordination of the entire system. Sometimes it’s addressing alignment issues or posture habits. Sometimes it’s addressing soft tissue and joint mobility restrictions. Sometimes it’s addressing the stability of the surrounding structures. Don’t just put harder exercise on a faulty foundation! If the deep core system is not firing effectively, beating up your abs won’t be doing you any good because whatever compensations are occurring and causing that doming abdomen will continue to happen.
#7 I Can Never Do Crunches or High Impact Again
There is a lot of conflicting information on the internet that can be scary. It is very common to see this type of statement when searching for DR solutions. It’s true – these exercises ARE more intense and therefore require more coordination because of an increase in intra-abdominal pressure that your body needs to effectively control. That makes them risky if you jump back into them without considering form or whether your core system can effectively control them, but there is no reason why you can’t build up the strength and coordination to do them again! It’s all about form and strategy and knowing when and how to modify to bring your body to an exercise it can control and then building up strength and intensity from there.
#8 I Will Never Get Better
This is the BIGGEST myth! It may take a little bit of work but you can heal your DR. Working with a women’s health specialist that understands DR is an important part of healing. If you are dealing with DR and need extra guidance in healing your DR you can work with me virtually or in person.