Why Modifying Your Ab Workout With Diastasis Recti Is Not The Answer

One of the most common issues I see in my practice of treating women after pregnancy is diastasis recti (or abdominal separation).  This is a lot more common than people think.  Almost 100% of women have this condition during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  Many times, especially after multiple pregnancies, the separation does not close entirely. This is usually apparent when a woman resumes fitness activities.  They often notice a “tenting” or “doming” at the abdominal region that happens with any abdominal / ”core” workouts.  

What Is Diastasis Recti?

This can be described by a thinning of the linea alba or connective tissue that lies between the superficial layer of your rectus abdominus (the 6-pack ab muscles).  This results in what looks like a separation between the muscle. This can be measured by how many fingers you can fit in the space.  It’s important to consider not only the width, but the depth of a finger in the space.

Diastasis Recti

(compliments of Burrell Education)

Self Check Time

Check out this video to perform your own self-assessment. Click to see the video <Self-assessment VIDEO>.

Why Is Diastasis Recti A Concern?

For many women (most of the ones I hear from!), the concern about seeing this is because of aesthetic reasons.  I hear, “Will my abs ever go back to normal?” I get asked,”I’ve lost the baby weight, but I still have a bulge at my abdominal area that won’t go away”…

Women also fear activities they have heard (too much Google searching) may make it worse like certain yoga poses, sit ups, planks, or twisting activities. Women tell me they don’t feel confident going into a fitness class and being able to do the workout effectively.  They think about what might happen if they have another baby and make it worse. This might be true, but might not… As I say, it completely depends on the individual!

Interestingly enough diastasis recti is not always the only issue that is going on.  But other more physical limitations may be a reason for concern and are very common. A lot of times this exists with back pain or stress incontinence (do you pee yourself when you run, jump or sneeze?).  Yes, it can be related!

How Is The “Core” Connected?

Because the abdominals are really just one portion of the “core”, here is why it is important to get some help for diastsis recti.  The anatomy of your “core” makes up your diaphragm for your breathing at the top.  The sides and front are your transverse abdominus (deepest abdominal layer). The pelvic floor makes up the bottom (like a basket of muscles that support your pelvic organs).  And your multifidus in th back, which helps stabilize your spine.  

When the front in a diastasis recti is disrupted or weakened, the other aspects of your trunk and pelvis will not function as a true efficient system. That is why a cough or sneeze may cause some leaking when the entire system is not optimally being recruited.

What Do I Need To Do To Fix It?

Pelvic floor dysfunction with “leaking” and back pain won’t eventually fix themselves.  Neither will a diastasis recti. It requires skilled intervention to resume that firing connection between the brain and your muscular system system, called neuromuscular training.  

For some women it may even take a pelvic floor assessment and proper instruction how to activate the deep layer of muscles with hands-on techniques.  This skilled intervention by a pelvic floor physical therapy specialist may include techniques to optimize the length of tight or shortened muscles that won’t cooperate with just exercises alone.

This is why continuing to modify your workouts around diastasis recti will only get you so far.  Your “core” is a term for a true muscular system that needs to work efficiently to reduce injury, improve your performance (especially for sports and running), and optimize a woman’s health in relation to sexual function.  It’s also important for preventing long-term problems leading to surgery in the future (a whole different blog coming later on pelvic organ prolapse!).  For now, get assessed by a pelvic floor / women’s health PT and your body will thank you!

What To Do Next?

Schedule a no pressure discovery session to see if you feel we’re the right fit for you, and to get expert advice so you can make the best informed and logical decision for your health.  And you’ll be able to get back to do all the things you want to. We will help you finally get some clear answers. Then we discuss the best solutions available to you, even if it’s not with us. We understand that finding quality care is a challenge, that’s why the first session is always on us.

What are you waiting for? If you want to find out information on other natural, holistic options, click the link to get your free tips guide (www.level4pt.com/diastasis-recti) or call now!

Dr. Dawn, DPT, MTC, CPI
Expert Women’s Health Physical Therapist in Encinitas

Diastasis Recti / Abdominal Separation Physical TherapyClick To Download The Tips Report

Dawn Andalon, DPT, MTC, CPI

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