4 Tips to Improve Diastasis Recti

4 Tips to improve Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation)

We've all heard of the "mommy pouch" or "hollow feeling" in our abdomen after having a baby, or surgery, or simply after weight gain. Many times that is due to diastasis recti, which is the separation of our abdominal muscles due to core weakness.

Diastasis recti is the laxity of the rectus abdominis muscles, which are the muscles we think of as the "six pack muscles." When the deepest muscle of our abdomen, the transversus abdominis becomes weakened, the rectus abdominis is more easily separated.

Diastasis recti can be caused by several things, including pregnancy, delivery (C-section deliveries being more prone to diastasis), weight gain, laparoscopic surgery, constipation/straining, and improper body mechanics when lifting. This separation can be aggravated by putting more pressure into our abdomen during activities, such as trying to have a bowel movement by straining or lifting a box while holding our breath.

Here are 4 tips to improve diastasis recti:

1. Go see a pelvic floor physical therapist: Pelvic floor physical therapists have specialized and extensive training on treating diastasis recti properly. They use a combination of manual therapy, therapeutic exercises and body mechanics education that helps the muscles approximate and increase strength in your core.

2. Don't do abdominal work outs without consulting with your therapist: When we want to strengthen our abdomen, many of us go straight to abdominal crunches and HIIT workouts. Although these can be great exercises at some points, they can actually worsen your diastasis when performed before you are ready for them. Doing full abdominal crunches can increase the pressure in your abdomen, which is not ideal.

3. Practice diaphragmatic breathing: I always tell my patients "don't forget to breathe" and they always laugh at me because they are actually forgetting! Breathe into your belly, and as you exhale, draw your belly button towards your spine and lift your pelvic floor. As a reminder, you should be exhaling during any effort to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on the abdomen.

4. Use proper body mechanics: We talked about breathing, now let's talk about rolling and lifting! When getting out of bed to sit up, make sure you are rolling to the side and then sitting up. Make sure you are breathing out as you do this as well. When picking up your child or lifting something from the floor, make sure you are using your legs, not just your back, and also breathe out as you lift.

Dr. Krisia Gattas, PT, DPT