What is Diastasis Recti and How Can I Tell If I Have it?
Diastasis Recti is a very common condition whereby the Linea Alba, the connective tissue that connects the left and right sides of the Rectus Abdominis or six pack muscle widens down the middle in one or more places creating a tummy "split" . This is very common (in fact necessary) in pregnant women but is also prevalent amongst the male population and women who have never been pregnant.
So, why does this happen and what can we do to prevent it?
In the case of pregnancy, this is actually a very normal mechanism, designed to allow space for the growing bump to develop. We can't prevent a woman developing a DR during pregnancy (in fact, a recent study has shown that 100% of women "split" to some degree during the third trimester) but we can work towards limiting the damage done and making the recovery process quicker and more effective. This involves going into a pregnancy with a strong core and functional pelvic floor, taking care of your body during pregancy and rehabilitating it afterwards with special exercises designed to specifically work those areas whilst preventing the split from getting any worse (crunches and sit ups are particularly out of the question at this point!)
Post Natal ladies are not the only ones suffering though. I often see very fit and active guys with the same problem. This can be caused by adopting poor breathing patterns in the gym - lifting a heavy weight and holding ones breath creates so much pressure within the abdomen that a diastasis will often develop.
So, how will you know if this is an issue for you? If possible, please consult a professional (a Pilates teacher with the relevant training or a Physiotherapist) who will be able to tell you for sure. If that's not possible for you, you can check yourself. Here's a handy video to show you how....
What are the implications of having DR?
Unfortunately, there are many. Back pain, postural issues, alignment problems and incontinence to name a few, so its important that we get this sorted!
The good news is that it's never too late to recover from DR so if your kids have just gone off to university you can still help yourself to get a stronger core and pelvic floor and enjoy all the benefits they bring.
Whilst the two sides of the Rectus may never fully close, that's no worry, the important thing is that the deep core (Transversus Abdominis), Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor are all working optimally and the Linea Alba is able to withstand the forces applied to it through daily activities and exercise.
So, how can you do this?
Pilates, when taught by someone knowledgable in DR, is the very best option. Always ask your teacher whether they are qualified to deal with your issues before you start working together.
If a live class or 1:1 sessions are not an option for you - don't worry, I have you covered. Head over to my video channel - htpps://corebeliefpilates.co.uk/video where you'll find a wide range of workouts suitable for you. I advise that you start with "Release me parts 1&2". These foam roller videos will help you to improve your alignment before you start your strength work, making every exercise far more effective. From there, do "The Magic Button part 1". This video will teach exactly how to feel your core and pelvic floor activation, improve your breathing patterns and set you on your way to recovery 🙂