What's The Deal with Diastasis - Part 2 - How to Heal It

In my last blog, I talked about what Diastasis Recti is. Though much more research is needed in order to fully understand it, we do have some information that can help point us toward healing strategies. Here I share with you my strategies for helping clients improve the integrity of the linea alba which sets them up for a return to optimal core function. Prevention during pregnancy, as well as taking advantage of the first eight weeks post-partum are essential (this is why my partners and I in Bellies Inc developed a comprehensive system). But if you are like many women and lack of knowledge and awareness during pregnancy means you are still struggling many years later with a weak core, I can still help!

A prescription for Diastasis Recti:

  • Ultimately, there is no prescription.  Everyone is different but one thing I know is that I always start with alignment and posture and then I add in the breath and then I add in movement to regain coordination - the ABC's - Alignment, Breathing, Coordination.
  • Alignment is key as well as the posture you choose through the day.  Keeping your rib cage over your pelvis is one of the biggies, along with straight feet and a tailbone that is un-tucked.  Being properly aligned and choosing optimal posture will help your core function normally and limit the likelihood of developing compensatory strategies.  Check out this visual explanation
  • Everyone is concerned with closing the gap, but it is more important to get the linea alba (the connective tissue that holds the 2 recti in place) tensioning properly; how you do that is through the pelvic floor (and alignment and breathing).  When I test for Diastasis I have my client do a head lift so I can get a sense of how far apart the rectus muscles are and if they are even able to approximate (move closer to the midline).  I also feel for the integrity of the connective tissue before they curl up and then as they curl up to see if it tensions or not.  The next step is to ask my client to do a pelvic floor contraction (a kegel) and then do the head lift again.  I am checking to see if tension develops in the connective tissue when they contract their pelvic floor and then do a head lift.  If it does then there is not a real cause for concern.  If it doesn’t then I need to help determine what in their core is over-working or under-working and get them set up so the over-workers can ease up and the under-workers can get back to work!  Here is a video showing how to do a self assessment 

  • Incorporate Core Breathing into your daily routine -  30 seconds to one minute. This is especially important if you are pregnant. To download your free instructional video, sign up for the Bellies Inc. newsletter here and gain access to the full Core Confidence program at a discount.

  • If you are reading this and still pregnant, start the Core Confidence program now and then after your baby is born, take advantage of the first eight weeks by wearing an Ab System and doing the Core Confidence program.  

  • See a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can help you connect with your pelvic floor – the pelvic floor is key in your inner core function and in healing a Diastasis.

  • Stop doing crunches as they will not flatten your tummy and will only put more strain on the connective tissue. Crunches do cause the recti muscles to approximate (come closer together), which sounds like what you should do to ‘close the gap,’ but in some, crunches actually pull the recti apart making the gap wider (oblique overuse) and crunches do not address the connective tissue. This is the biggest piece of the puzzle. The connective tissue needs to regain its integrity and that happens with proper alignment and the ability to engage your pelvic floor.  If you do not have the ability to tension the linea alba and then add on demanding moves like leg lifts, planks, mountain climbers etc, then your spine and pelvis and organs do not have the support they need and will ultimately get injured.  

  • Most people then ask, well if I can regain tension in my linea alba, then can I go back to crunches?  I say no. Crunches shorten your midsection, which you don’t need more of (all the sitting we do does this for us). Crunches round the shoulders and encourage forward head posture, which you don’t need more of (sitting and pregnancy and breastfeeding and texting and laptop using and driving all do that).  Go back to planks or a host of other exercises I list on my Pinterest Page - Core Without Crunches

  • Fixing’ a diastasis is more about optimizing your alignment and then retraining your inner core so it functions as it should.

Awareness is key and can help minimize DRA.  The first eight weeks postpartum are critical for healing, so take advantage of that.  Common ‘core’ exercises can actually do more harm than good so find physiotherapy and fitness professionals who can help you with the ABC’s – Alignment, Breathing and Coordination (or Core-ordination as I like to call it!)