Understanding Diastasis Recti & How to Treat It

Understanding Diastasis Recti & How To Treat It

If you have been diagnosed with Diastasis Recti, suspect that you have it, or are experiencing abdominal weakness, pain or belly bulging that doesn’t seem to be getting better after giving birth (or not!), then this is for you.

Before we dive into the clinical details of what’s happening and why, we also wanted to take a minute to let you know that we get it. We’ve worked with countless women to help them with this problem, and we know the fears and concerns around this problem. We understand the impact that this can have on a woman’s body image and self-confidence. We see the pressures that many feel to bounce from having their baby and back into exercise. We feel the frustration of not being able to resume certain activities or feel ‘normal’ again. We understand that the start of recovery can seem like it has no end - especially if you’ve been undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for so long already.

We get it - and we’re proud to help so many women like you overcome Diastasis Recti - because yes, it definitely is 100% treatable, and it doesn’t need to have any long-term effects on your body either. Here’s how!

What does Diastasis Recti mean?

Diastasis Recti is the abnormal separation of your abdominal muscles (the “rectus abdominis”) that remains after giving birth. We talk about “abnormal” separation post-pregnancy because during pregnancy, especially when you get close to full-term (~37 weeks or so), this process is completely normal - and necessary - to allow your body to accommodate for your growing baby. However, if your abdominal muscles are still significantly separated after giving birth, this is then classified as abnormal.

You must remember that our bodies know this is going to happen as our bodies expand - and so we release certain pregnancy hormones that soften our connective tissues and make this process much easier for our bodies during pregnancy.

How do the abdominal muscles stay separated?

If you trace the midline of your stomach, from just below the breasts to belly button or pubic bone, there is connective tissue present in this area called the Linea Alba. It is because of the stretching (or thinning) of this tissue that the abdominal muscles on both sides of the stomach (and on either side of the Linea Alba) remain further separated than they should normally be.

How do I know if I have Diastasis Recti?

Often, signs and symptoms may include:
  • Bulging appearance of the stomach, especially at the midline
  • Pelvic floor problems
  • Weakness and impaired function of the pelvic floor and deep core muscles, which affects the stability of the pelvis and lower back
  • Hip, pelvis or back pain
  • Postural changes if the deep abdominal muscles have become less functional and muscle imbalances have occurred

It’s important that you never guess as to whether you have this condition or not. If you’re worried, book an appointment with your physio ASAP - especially one that specialises in women’s health like we do here at Thrive Health Hong Kong. We’ll perform a physical examination, discuss your history, and provide you with a confident diagnosis, whether it’s Diastasis Recti or something else.

What if I’ve never been pregnant?

Diastasis Recti can definitely affect those that have never been pregnant - including men too! When we undertake repetitive activities that put tension on our abdominal muscles (especially movements that encourage them to pull apart), we have the potential to overstretch the connecting fascia of these muscles, and cause muscle separation. Aside from activities, it can also be due to our posture, having very tight abdominal muscles, shortened muscles, digestive problems like bloating, and more.

How do I treat Diastasis Recti?

Treating Diastasis Recti must have a tailored approach based on the extent of the symptoms you’re experiencing, your strength and ability, the number of weeks post-partum (or not) you are, and so on.

Next, you’ll begin to gently but effectively work to strengthen your deep core abdominal muscles and your pelvic floor while addressing any alignment or postural problems that are contributing to the condition. We may get you to temporarily modify some activities, or use a brace for added support during the initial stages of your recovery.

These techniques and exercises will be taught to you by your physio as your technique is fundamental here. At Thrive Health Hong Kong, we offer specialised clinical pilates sessions not just to continue to work on restoring your strength and function, but also to track your progress and alter the exercises as we continue to see results. We stay with you every step of the way, and we’re always here for any questions you have.

Never ignore Diastasis Recti

Unfortunately, Diastasis Recti can become worse if left untreated or ignored. This means you’ll experience uncomfortable symptoms for longer as you prolong your recovery time. It’s important to start active rehabilitation as soon as it is safe to - which your Physio will let you know. In severe cases, Diastasis Recti may require surgery - so take action long before it gets to this point.

Prevention is key, too

There are several things you can do to help reduce the likelihood of developing Diastasis Recti too. This focuses on reducing your daily movements that encourage tension on the Linea Alba or pressure within the abdomen. While these aren’t necessarily “big” changes, because they can affect the body many times throughout the day, they can add up to make a significant difference. This includes:
  • Posture - pushing our shoulders back, chest forward and overcorrecting our posture can put more tension on the Linea Alba. Instead, check your alignment and bring your pelvis and ribs back over your feet and not in front of them.
  • Tight musculature - at the chest, shoulders and the psoas major muscle can create tension on the Linea Alba. These are aspects that can be assessed and managed with the help of your physio and your tailored rehab plan.
  • Bloating, overeating, sucking in your stomach constantly and digestive issues that increase the intra-abdominal pressure. Try to avoid or limit the amount of sucking in or straining of the stomach, and address any other digestive problems you are having.

Let’s do this!

If you have - or suspect that you have - Diastasis Recti, we’d love to help. The first step is simply coming in for your comprehensive assessment where we can confirm your diagnosis, explain exactly what’s going on, and create your tailored recovery plan. Then we start on your journey to feeling yourself again and having a healthy-functioning core!

You can book an appointment online or call us on 2522 6972.