What is Diastasis Recti and Can It Be Fixed With Exercise?
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Published: April 26, 2022
Our bodies are amazing. They are capable of doing so much that we are not even aware of. The human body is one of the most perfect machines in nature. The body can withstand a lot of harsh treatment and difficult conditions. Sometimes, these come about from our habits, daily activities, and other circumstances we cannot foresee, such as accidents. Some, on the other hand, appear to happen as a result of completely natural processes, such as pregnancy. We are going to discuss diastasis recti and can it be fixed with exercise, as well as other methods to correct this condition. At DubaiPT, we offer special services with staff trained to tackle any issue the client may have, including diastasis recti. Let’s have a closer look at diastasis recti, what it is and what we can do to fix it.
What is diastasis recti and how does it occur?
Diastasis recti is, in layman’s terms, abdominal separation. The term “recti” comes from the name of the muscle group in our abdomen, the rectus abdominis. These are commonly known as “the six-pack” muscles. Diastasis recti is a condition that occurs when the walls of our left and right side of the “pack” are separated. This is a very common condition that occurs in two-thirds of pregnant women. The risk of diastasis recti significantly increases with age and women who get pregnant over the age of 35 are more likely to get it. The risk is also increased when the woman carries multiple children in a single pregnancy, or with each consecutive pregnancy.
Pregnancy puts incredible pressure on the abdominal muscles. When these muscles are separated, as is the case with diastasis recti, inner organs remain almost fully exposed. The uterus, bowels, and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue (linea alba) to protect and hold them in their position. This condition can also have other consequences, such as urine leaking, lower back pain, and hernias. While it was believed that a significant weight gain during pregnancy or the weight/size of the child can be factors, this has been disproven. A 2015 study on Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis has shown that there is no correlation between these factors and diastasis recti.
Diastasis Recti – other cases
Diastasis recti isn’t limited to pregnant women, however. It can occur in newborns as well, although this is often regulated in a short time period with no intervention. Adult males can also be affected by diastasis recti in cases of extreme strain or incorrect weightlifting form. This is why if you’re in need of a fitness trainer Dubai PT has you covered and you greatly reduce the risk of such injuries.
Recognizing Diastasis Recti
The symptoms of diastasis recti are quite noticeable. However, with all the changes a woman’s body is going through during and after the pregnancy, it may be difficult to be sure. During the pregnancy, the symptoms may not be as obvious. This is especially true during the first trimester. However, during the second and third trimesters, it can become clearer. A developing ridge on your belly may be a sign of it. It may be more visible with ab muscle activation (standing up or sitting down) and can appear below or above the belly button. It may be a good idea to see a doctor if you experience any abdominal pain, back pain, or pelvic pain.
Postpartum diastasis recti test
When it comes to postpartum, the most noticeable symptom will be a “pooch”, or a bulge, in the belly area. It may even look like you’re still carrying, even though the pregnancy is finished and you’ve already given birth. There is a way to check for yourself if you may have diastasis recti and here is how:
- Lay down, on your back. Put your feet on the floor, with your legs bent at the knee.
- Place a hand on the back of your head and raise your head, looking down at your belly.
- Slightly raise your shoulders off the floor.
- Using our other hand, feel around the abdominal area for gaps.
- If you feel a gap, wide enough for two fingers’ length, you may have a mild case of diastasis recti.
You may, of course, visit a physician and ask for a check-up. The doctor will use a caliper or suggest an ultrasound in order to ascertain the condition of the abdominal wall. If the gap is wider than the length of two fingers, the doctor will likely do an evaluation.
Reducing the severity of diastasis recti during pregnancy
If you noticed diastasis recti forming or your doctor has diagnosed it, there are ways to reduce the damage. Most women will experience, at least to some degree, the weakening of abdominal muscles and abdominal separation. This is perfectly normal and natural. Some women opt for or are recommended to wear a binder or a Tubigrip, to get some abdominal support during their daily activities. You may also practice the following to reduce the spread of the diastasis:
- Try to avoid straining, and reduce heavy lifting, squatting, and bending over too often.
- Keep a pillow behind you when sitting, so that you’re slightly leaning back instead of sitting upright.
- Use your arms to raise yourself up off the bed or floor, trying to use as little abdominal tension as possible.
- Hire a female bodybuilder personal trainer to learn how to safely strengthen your core during pregnancy.
Can your diastasis recti be fixed without surgery?
As with many things in science and medicine, experts debate this topic regularly. It is very possible to ask two doctors their opinion on a case of diastasis recti and receive different answers. One may prescribe exercise and diet, while the other may insist on reconstructive surgery. This, primarily, depends on the severity of the case of the diastasis recti. According to the Mayo Clinic, surgery should be performed on patients whose diastasis recti is grossly interfering with their daily activities.
Although doctors may not always agree about a specific case, most agree that some cases of diastasis recti have to be operated on. If you’re unsure about your diastasis recti, ask the opinion of your doctor. However, do not hesitate to look for the opinions of other specialists as well. So when discussing diastasis recti and can it be fixed with exercise, the answer is – yes, but not always.
When discussing diastasis recti and can it be fixed with exercise, we must not neglect the dieting part. If you think about it logically, diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles, caused by a growth within the belly area. Therefore, you should also attempt to avoid any food that creates bloating, since this will also expand your belly and hinder diastasis healing. It is important to focus on whole foods, healthy alternatives, and unprocessed food items as much as possible.
You should know what your body tolerates (although this can change during the pregnancy somewhat) and what it digests easily. With a monthly meal plan Dubai PT can arrange for you, it can be very simple to meet these requirements.
General guidelines for dieting with diastasis recti
When the abdominals are stretched, the linea alba, which is a thin connective tissue that keeps the muscles together, is stretched apart. The linea alba is constructed from collagen fibers. This means that we need to boost collagen production through our diet and supplementation. Once it is provided with enough collagen, it has the potential to revert to it’s previous state. It’s important, however, to consider the ability of your body to digest certain food items. For example, people who have issues with gluten should avoid it, as it may create extreme bloating and hinder recovery. Luckily, there are gluten free meal plans Dubai PT has available for clients with specific dietary requirements.
The body needs macronutrients and micronutrients in order to function properly. Your nutrition should consist of food items rich in protein, as protein is the building block of our organism. Naturally, a diet rich in protein will provide enough material to heal the damaged tissue in your abdomen. Eating a protein-rich diet is even more important if you’re currently on a weight loss diet plan. Some of the best sources of protein are:
- Whey protein powder
Vitamins, minerals, and supplements
There are vegan alternatives in solid and powdered form, of course. You should also look to address the micronutrient needs – the vitamins and minerals. Vitamins C and A, as well as Zinc, all play a major role in collagen production. In order to get your daily vitamin C needs, add some red peppers, kiwis, citrus fruits, and tomatoes to your daily meals. For vitamin A, sweet potatoes, carrots, and kale will satisfy the requirements. You can get your daily Zinc from nuts, seeds, and quality red meat.
Iron is another mineral you will need, as it helps in oxygen transport through the bloodstream. This is very useful as our cells require oxygen to function and recover. You should also look to add some alpha-linolenic acid, which helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and positively affects immune response. You may source it in oils, seeds, and nuts. If any of these are difficult for you to get through nutrition, consult with your doctor about supplementation.
Exercises for your diastasis recti
We talked a lot about diastasis recti and can it be fixed with exercise. The answer to the question is – yes, in many cases. So what are the exercises for fixing diastasis recti? Well, you start thinking about a workout routine, let’s see if there are smarter options available.
There are many online tutorials and guides on fixing diastasis recti by yourself. This may be possible if you’re someone who has extensive experience in the gym already. However, if you are not very well versed in exercise, it may not be a good idea to attempt this on your own. This can be a very slow and tedious process, and professional help is highly advisable. You may be relieved to know that the professionals at DubaiPT are specially trained in dealing with diastasis recti. With many cases of diastasis recti already fixed, you would be in safe hands with the DubaiPT expert team.
If, however, you decide to go about it yourself, here are some of the most common exercises used in treating diastasis recti:
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- Standing push-up
- Bridge pose/glute bridge
Diaphragmatic breathing seems simple on the surface, but it’s actually quite difficult. It can be a real challenge to achieve true diaphragmatic breathing without assistance. To begin, lay on the floor, on your back. You may use a yoga mat if uncomfortable. Place your hands on your lower ribcage, on the sides, and attempt to inhale into your hands. You should feel your abdomen expanding sideways if done correctly. It may take you a few attempts to get right, but be patient and stubborn. Once you mastered diaphragmatic breathing, you may move on to the next exercise.
A standing push-up is similar to a regular push-up. If you could bring the floor upright, it would look almost identical. You should attempt to incorporate diaphragmatic breathing into this movement, if possible. To begin, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart in front of a wall. The wall should be far away enough that you can almost fully extend your arms towards it and lean against it with your palms. Using diaphragmatic breathing, inhale and allow your body to lean towards the wall until you’ve almost touched it with your nose. Control the movement with your arms and upon pushing back to the starting position, exhale.
Bridge Pose/glute bridge
The bridge pose is a very common pose in yoga. It is also a very common exercise, most often done by females who wish to shape their glute muscles. You are more than likely familiar with it if you’ve ever been to a gym or seen a fitness video. To begin, lay on the mat with your back flat against it. Your feet should be on the floor and your legs bent at the knee. Inhale using diaphragmatic breathing and flex your glutes. Raise your hips towards the ceiling until you’ve formed a straight, diagonal line from your knees (being the top point) to your shoulders. Descend and inhale.
These are some of the most common beginner exercises for fixing milder cases of diastasis recti. If your case is more severe, or you’ve not seen any improvement after several weeks of exercise, seek professional help.
What is diastasis recti and can it be fixed with exercise? – the takeaway
This article has provided a lot of information on diastasis recti. From how it forms, to what you can do to prevent it, slow down its spread, and finally, how to heal it with diet and exercise. Hopefully, you have found your answer and are now more than motivated to finally fix that pesky diastasis. Good luck!