Restore Your Core Is Diastasis Recti fixable?

Is Diastasis Recti fixable?

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Is Diastasis Recti Fixable? | Exercise or Surgery

By Lauren Ohayon 04/06/2021

4 Min Read

If you recently found out that you have developed a diastasis recti, it is common to feel stressed and overwhelmed by all of the information out there. In this article I hope to answer your most pressing questions.

The word “fix” is a bit tricky. We live in a very “fix” oriented society and while I completely understand the desire to find healing, I also think that it is important to remove ourselves from the “I am broken and need fixing” mindset to “I am strong already and can really optimize my core.” Also important to note that a Diastasis Recti can be present and your core can still be totally functional. Meaning that a hyperfocus on the gap can detract us from the real work.

Diastasis Recti is not always a permanent condition and can often be healed through strategic core rehab. It does take time and it will require hard work and dedication on your end, but it is usually possible to close the gap. Your gap may not close all the way. Diastasis Recti is still being researched, and as stated above, recent studies have shown that the focus for diastasis healing should revolve around restoring core function rather than closing the gap entirely. Identifying The Severity of the Diastasis Recti

Are you looking for safe and restorative exercises to heal from diastasis recti?

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Are you looking for safe and restorative exercises to heal from diastasis recti?

Learn more about the RYC program

Identifying The Severity of the Diastasis Recti

To identify the severity of a diastasis recti, you must perform a self-assessment test, or have a physical therapist diagnose you with diastasis recti. Although I would recommend having a professional diagnose you, there is a self-test you can perform at home to help you determine whether or not you may have a diastasis recti. 

A self-assessment can be performed as follows:

  1. Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place one hand on the midline of your core with your fingers pointing straight down on your abs.  
  3. If you need support for your head, place your other hand under your head and neck for support. Slowly lift your head and add minimal pressure to your fingers placed on your core. With no diastasis recti, there is the feeling of a toned wall as you lift your head up. If you feel a gap, or your fingers sink into your core, you likely have diastasis recti. In very obvious cases, you can feel the sides of your core muscles in between that gap on the left and right sides.
  4. Repeat the process for the areas just above your belly button and below your belly button to determine whether or not the diastasis recti is isolated or in your core as a whole.

A gap that is only one or two finger widths wide might not be a big concern, unless it is deep –  but caution is recommended. However, if you discover that you have a gap ranging from 2.7 cms or larger (2.5 fingers or larger) you should consult a PT or OT.

If a self-test determines that you may have a diastasis recti, make an appointment with a physical therapist to assess you further. They will be exponentially helpful in helping decide what the next steps for you may be and how to begin your healing process.

How to Fix Diastasis Recti

Preventing or healing a DR can be a bit tricky to wrap our head around. A common diastasis recti myth: having a toned, slim abdomen is the primary result of healing. This just isn’t true and many athletes and bodybuilders have diastasis recti. One of the primary focuses in healing your diastasis recti is helping prevent you from making common (but harmful) workout cheats and to correct problematic exercises that end up damaging your abdominals rather than promoting core function. The end result is a functional core through intelligent core rehab.

Due to diastasis recti being more common during and after pregnancy, many methods of prehab involve postural awareness, corrective exercises, and a conscious prehab approach during pregnancy. Yet, there are several things to keep in mind regardless of whether you are male or female, pregnant or not.

  • Understand a good / healthy / functional core strategy 
  • Practice appropriate breathing patterns
  • Ensure your abs are free from excess tension
  • Avoid exercises that increase focalized tension in the abdomen
  • Consider your posture

Although diastasis recti is not completely avoidable in some cases, the list above helps paint a clear picture on how to protect your core while still staying active. The key is to be mindful of your body’s function and how to increase your functionality and build strength in the most conscious and mindful way.

7 Exercises for DR Recovery

Below is a list of diastasis recti exercises that I have found to help heal Diastasis Recti.

Candles/Core Engagement:

Come to sit tall or stand. Inhale and on the exhale, imagine you are blowing out 100 candles. As you blow, you should feel your core tighten and draw inwards. This can and should be practiced whenever working out and managing a load, a weight, a core move. It automates the core and begins to integrate the function of the core to the activity that you are doing.

Tabletop or Reverse Marching:

Lie down similarly to that of a diastasis test. On each exhale, practice candles. As you exhale, alternate bringing your knee, while still bent, toward your body. 

Seated Side Bend:

Sit comfortably. Possibly on a block or some pillows. Hold a yoga strap or belt overhead. Bend your elbows slightly to take the stress off of your neck and shoulders. Exhale, blow candles, tighten your core and side bend right and then exhale to go left. Your core should not bulge, brace or push out as you do these. These are great for upper body mobility, torso length and strength and are a great way to work your core without strain.

Goddess Side Bend:

While standing with wide feet placement (knees aligned with feet), begin candles exhale and bend your knees slowly until they are level with your ankles. Stabilize your body by pressing your heels into the floor. Side bend by raising your arm while maintaining resistance. Repeat side rotations 3x and then return to a standing position.

Goddess Squat Twist:

Repeat steps outlined above but have your arms stacked across your chest. While in the goddess position, twist by using your ribcage and not your arms. Repeat side twists 4x and return to a standing position

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Lunge with a Twist and Chop:

Practice lunging. As you bring one leg forward–all while maintaining correct posture–lift your hands, palms crossed, in front of your face. Then slowly begin to twist toward your forward leg. As you twist toward your forward leg, bring your arms across your thigh in a chopping motion.

Opposite Reach:

For this exercise, you will come onto your hands and knees and slowly lift the opposite arm and leg. If that is too hard, do just one at a time. As you lift, you exhale and blow candles, feel your core engage and be extra sure not to bear down, brace or bulge your core! Amazing for your shoulders, arms, core and booty.

Although diastasis recti is not completely avoidable in some cases, the list above helps paint a clear picture on how to protect your core while still staying active. The key is to be mindful of your body’s function and how to increase your functionality and build strength without causing harm to your body.

Surgical Option

In some cases exercise routines and strength building therapy do not accomplish the desired result. When this occurs, surgery is an option for “fixing”/healing diastasis recti. However, surgery should be the last option you consider.

Diastasis recti surgery is very invasive and it may not be covered by your insurance due to it being considered a cosmetic surgery (abdominoplasty or “tummy tuck”). The recovery process can also take several months to a year depending on the severity of your diastasis recti and the extent of the surgery. That is why I encourage at least a year’s time of rehab before considering surgery. 

Got Questions ?

A mom's diastasis recti abdominis is a common post-pregnancy complication. When the muscles of her abdominal wall separate, it can be difficult for them to come back together on their own and she may need physical therapy if they don't heal within 6 weeks to 3 months following delivery. Surgery is usually only considered in extreme cases if the gap does not close within a year of physical therapy.
A great way to prevent worsening your diastasis recti is avoiding exercises that can make it worse, such as crunches, planks and twists. It's also important not to jump out of bed or do anything else that causes a visible doming in the ab muscles.
Yes! There have been many women who have completed my program and seen their diastasis recti close considerably, if not all the way. It is possible to not only heal a diastasis without surgery, it is also possible to restore function and ability to your core and your body without the need of invasive surgeries.
Many men and women can use a simple core-strengthening technique to heal their diastasis recti. People who are trying this therapy should only resort to surgery if they have tried it for one year and the problem is severe enough that doctors think it may result in health risks or complications later on down the road.
The most common symptom of diastasis recti is a bulge in your stomach, especially when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles. Additional symptoms include: back pain and poor posture.
Medically speaking, a separation of 2 finger widths or more is considered Diastasis Recti. However, not everyone with this gap should be put in the DR category!
Diastasis recti can lead to side effects like lower back pain, constipation and urine leaking. It may also cause difficulty with breathing or movement. In some rare cases, tissue tears can form hernias, places where organs poke out of the openings in your tissues.
Belly binding is thought to help close the diastasis recti gap by wrapping a binder around your torso. However, wearing a splint or binder won't strengthen or tighten the muscles - but it might provide support for lower back pain and other issues related to pregnancy (or postpartum).
Women often ask me if they should run with diastasis recti after having their babies. They're hoping for a definitive answer, but in my professional opinion the response is not so simple. If you are well past the 8 week mark postpartum, adding in low intensity exercises can be a great way to begin regaining strength. However, this may look different for each person.
If you feel a physical gap or softness with muscles on either side, you may have diastasis recti. If you can feel the tensed muscles underneath your belly, then you're probably just dealing with some belly fat. The good news is, most cases of diastasis recti are temporary (and belly fat can be temporary too!).
Water is important to have a healthy flow throughout your body. To give yourself the best chance at healing, you need to get into good habits now - and that means hydrating with water! It doesn't all have to be plain water though; diluted juices or herbal teas are also encouraged for increased hydration levels.
A diastasis of the abdominal wall, (diastasis recti), is not a hernia. Clinically, a diastasis may look like an inguinal or umbilical hernia when flexing your abdomen in that it bulges and can be seen through the skin right around where your belly button would be.
Diastasis recti is a condition that develops when too much pressure is put on your abdominal muscles. This can cause the muscles to stretch and separate, forming what we call "a bulge" or leave an appearance of a dip or concave in the middle.
More than 50% of women have pathological (severe) levels of diastasis recti immediately following delivery, and for many of these women postpartum recovery of the separation is incomplete. A space of more than 2.7cm to 3cm at the level of the belly button is typically considered to be pathological.
Digestion can be affected by diastasis recti. Eating no sugar, gluten and intermittent fasting has helped many of my clients find relief from bloating and constipation- talk to your dietician if these are an issue for you!