Split down the middle, coning, doming, bulging….all pretty scary ways to describe the dreaded diastasis recti abdominis or DRA.
Diastasis recti has gotten a really bad rap and many people fear they did something wrong that created their DRA.
Let’s get a few things straight. If you’re pregnant, you will likely develop some level of DRA by the third trimester…this is your body’s way of making more space for baby (Fernandes da Mota, Pascoal, Carita, & Bø, 2015)
Second, a lot of diastasis comes down to genetics and connective tissue. I’ve said it in past blogs: some of us just didn’t win the connective tissue lottery.
Third, you’re not split down the middle. DRA is a stretching of the connective tissue called the linea alba that connects your rectus abdominis aka six pack ab muscles.
Lastly, any gender or age can develop a diastasis. DRA does not solely affect pregnant and postpartum people.
Can we close a diastasis? We used to think that we can close up a diastasis but what we really do is build up the strength of connective tissue down the middle. This helps you get the appearance you want cosmetically and most importantly handle the challenge of doing hard things.
Now let’s get to it…5 ways to work on your diastasis.
Let go of blame
You didn’t do anything wrong to get a diastasis. Stop blaming yourself and fearing that you’re making yourself worse with every little movement.
Instead of lingering on what you could have and should have done, be productive, be proud of what your body can do for you and let’s move forward.
This leads into my next point
Load that tissue
Long gone are the days of straight plane heel taps. Don’t get me wrong, heel slides have a time and place and are fabulous for activating the deep core…but you can’t do them forever.
Once they become easy, progress. Here are some ideas of how to progress your training for diastasis.
You have plenty of options when it comes to working your “core”. What exercises do you like to do? Can you incorporate core engagement into them?
Ditch the high waisted jeans, leggings, waist trainers etc.
While it may seem intuitive to want to be “engaged” and tucked in all the time this actually really increases abdominal pressure.
You may notice at the end of a long day of being pulled in, your abdominals may look puffed out at the bottom or if you have some pelvic floor dysfunction, you may feel a little worse at the end of the day.
High waisted looks great, but take breaks and roll them down periodically. And I definitely don’t recommend waist trainers.
I feel like this point comes up in every single post, but it’s an important one.
Straining day after day increases pressure in the abdominal area and on your pelvic floor.
Get your fiber, exhale as you push, and elevate your feet.
If those tips don’t do the trick, see a pelvic floor physical therapist.
You’re a whole person, think about the rest of your body.
Your abdominals don’t do all the work holding up your body. Other muscles influence your posture and how you move.
For example, if your hip flexors are always on fire and tight, you will be in more of an anterior tilt in standing. See below.
In an anterior tilt, your lower abdominal muscles will be pushing out.
If your glutes are weak and you habitually stand with your butt tucked in, that will change the appearance of your abdomen.
You don’t have to avoid these postures completely or fear making things worse if you find yourself drifting in and out of “not ideal” posture, but we want to avoid these postures for prolonged periods, all the time.
Diastasis can go hand in hand with pelvic floor dysfunction, it can make you feel less confident lifting and doing day to day tasks or maybe you’re self conscious about your appearance.
These are all valid reasons to work on your DRA.
Need a little help in finding what works for you? Trust your pelvic floor physical therapist. We are here to help.
Fernandes da Mota, P. G., Pascoal, A. G., Carita, A. I., & Bø K. (2015). Prevalence and risk factors
of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with
lumbo‐pelvic pain. Manual Therapy, 20(1), 200–205. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2014.09.002