Diastasis Recti Abdominis: A Candid Conversation
Diastasis recti abdominis has become more of a hot topic these days and more and more people have questions about it. There has become a lot of fear that surrounds the words and the condition; fear of getting it, fear of what happens if you do get it, fear of making it worse, and fear of not being able to return to your normal life. All of this is understandable. There is so much information out there and it can be overwhelming. However, before going down the Dr. Google rabbit hole, here is some information about Diastasis Recti Abdominis and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
What is it and why does it happen?
Diastasis recti abdominis (DrA) is the separation of the rectus abdominis muscle (“6 pack ab muscles”). This often occurs during pregnancy, postpartum, and sometimes even after an abdominal surgery due to the relaxin hormone creating more laxity in your body as well as your body trying to make room for a growing baby. Occasionally, this can also be caused by increased intra-abdominal pressure, or pressure in the abdomen.
How do I know if I have it?
If you have DrA, you may notice a separation or gap in the abdomen either at rest, with a certain activity, or with exercising. Watch this video below that explains how to test for it on yourself:
You may also notice a bulge or coning in the abdomen with certain exercises or activities, this could be a sign of diastasis but does not necessarily mean that you have it. If you are able to push down the bulge, then a bulge or coning is not necessarily a bad thing.
Can I prevent it from happening?
You can be very cautious about what activities you are doing and be careful about increasing intra-abdominal pressure too much and still get it. You can also not think about it at all and do all of the things and not get it. Sometimes your body just has different plans for you, and it doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong. The best thing you can do is listen to your body and pay attention to what it can handle and what you feel good with. Focus on strengthening all parts of your core and play around with how you are breathing during exercises to see what you feel the best with.
How can I fix it?
How to fix it can be different for every person. Everyone's body is different, everyone’s DrA is different, and how one functions with it is different.
Many people focus on strengthening your lower abdominals (the transverse abdominis, or TrA). However when you only focus on this, you are missing out on strengthening all of your other core muscles which could help to decrease the separation. So the first thing to keep in mind is working on all of your different core muscles; the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis and your pelvic floor. In addition, how you breathe and hold tension in your abdomen may affect your strength and how you feel as well.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the size of the separation is not nearly as important as the tension you can put through it. If you have a separation with a certain activity, that is not necessarily a bad thing. But if you can feel strong with it and feel that there is tension in the abdomen and in the separation (for example, the abdomen feels solid and you can’t sink your fingers through the separation), that is a great sign.
There is a lot more to DrA than what is mentioned here and it can be a complicated concept to understand, however the biggest takeaway that I want you to have is that DrA is not as scary as many may think! If you have it, do not fret! It does not have to limit you from doing the things that you want to do and it is definitely something that can improve. Some may just need a bit of guidance and understanding of how to best strengthen their body. Trying different breathing techniques and ways to engage your core and pelvic floor can help you get back to feeling confident and strong.