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How to Test for Diastasis Recti?
Believing you may have a diastasis recti can be a worrisome / frustrating experience. However, there is an abundance of information regarding diastasis recti recovery. We at Restore Your Core have designed a program specifically for women who are suffering from diastasis recti or other abdominal/pelvic floor issues. This article will help begin to address what diastasis recti is and instruct you in how to perform a self-test.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is the stretching or separation of the rectus abdominis (6 pack) muscles caused by the thinning of the linea alba (midline connective tissue). Diastasis recti separation leaves your abdominal organs unsupported, and if severe, can expose your digestive organs creating a stomach bulge.
This separation can range from being isolated above the belly button, within the belly button, and below the belly button sitting above the pubic bone. In some cases, the separation emcompasses the entire mid section of the core.
In both men and women, this gap can be created in the midline of your belly anywhere from the pubic bone to the base of your ribcage. During a crunch or sit-up, where one would normally feel tension and closure, there is a space in between.
What Does it Look Like?
Diastasis recti looks different from person to person. Although in some cases the symptoms can be painful and more present, in some people they aren’t noticeable at all. Below I address the most common and present symptoms you should be aware of in determining whether or not you may have a diastasis recti.
An abdominal bulge is not always an indication of a diastasis recti, yet, it can be a symptom.
This bulge, or stomach “pooch,” occurs when the abdominal organs become unsupported by the rectus abdominis muscles. This can appear as a cone shape or ridge above and within the area located close to the belly button. However, depending on where the diastasis recti has become isolated, the bulge can range from above the belly button, on the belly button (causing the belly button to flatten), or below the belly button just above the pubic bone.
Muscle Separation & Linea Alba Stretching
This is the most noticeable and common symptom of diastasis recti (whether you have significant body fat or no body fat at all). A minor separation (one of 1-2 finger widths) is not a significant injury,, but I advised considering rehab or core building exercises to prevent the gap from widening.
In more severe cases, the separation can be that of 5-10 finger widths. This effect is much more noticeable and can be seen as a crevice or significant gap within the abdominal core. Diastasis recti is also measured by shallowness or deepness. Someone could potentially have a 10 finger width separation but it’s shallow. In this case, exercise and safe core strengthening routines can help restore the core to its natural state.
How to Test for Diastasis Recti:
- Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor.
- Place one hand on the midline of your core with your fingers flat on your midline.
- Place your other hand under your head and neck for support.Lift your head slowly and begin adding pressure through the pads of your fingers.
- With no diastasis recti, there is the sensation of a toned wall as you lift your direct. If you feel a space, or your fingers sink into your core, you likely have diastasis recti.
- Repeat the procedure for the areas directly above your belly button down to the pubis to determine whether the diastasis recti is isolated or in your core as a whole.
How to Tell if You Have a Diastasis
Rectus abdominis separation can lead to a stomach bulge (aka stomach pooch), pelvic floor issues, unnatural posture, and stomach and back pain. The symptoms of diastasis recti include but are not limited to:
- Abdominal Bulge
- Abdominal Gaping
- Lower Back Pain
- Sensation of Bloatedness without Bloat
- Incontinence (leak pee)
- Poor Posture
- Constipation & Bloat
- Doming or invagination of the linea alba when when performing crunches or other traditional ab exercises
- Difficulty with everyday activities due to a lack of core function.
Unless you have a low body fat percentage or have an overly toned core with a visible 6-pack, it is very hard to diagnose a diastasis recti on appearance alone. The linea alba lies beneath the fat layer of your abdomen, so it cannot be seen. Many people have a diastasis recti for years before learning they have it.
Does Coning Always Mean You Have Diastasis Recti
Abdominal coning is most commonly a sign of diastasis recti. Diastasis recti during pregnancy can be a cause of the core doming or coning. This is a result of the expanding uterus as it makes room for your child. Although the separation of the muscles and the stretching of the connective tissues is normal, coning may present its own problems. If your belly is changing its shape from being round and reverting to a coning shape, this could be an indication that diastasis recti is present and will extend into the postpartum period.
What does Mild Diastasis Recti Look Like?
Similarly to the above, mild diastasis recti can show signs of an abdominal bulge or look like the midline of your abdomen is “coning.” During a self-assessment or if you have a physical therapist assess you, diastasis recti looks like a separation in your core. In mild cases, this gap can be 1-2 finger lengths wide, yet present little to no symptoms. It is best to consider core strengthening programs even if the gap is not severe in order to prevent the gap from widening.
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What to Do If You Think You Have It
One of the best things you can do during pregnancy is prehab. I have many long term clients who were able to prevent their diastasis recti from returning with subsequent pregnancies by working their core in a smart, functional way the entirety of their pregnancy. Many report that their core felt stronger than ever with the prehab work that they did. Pregnancy is not an illness, there is no need to halt all exercise. We do, however, want to make good exercise choices. It is very important to exercise your core during pregnancy but not to increase intra ab pressure as you do so.
Our online prehab program, One Strong Mama, is designed to prepare your body for the unique demands of pregnancy, birth, and recovery. Everything you need to prepare your body can be found in this program which combines functional exercise, strength training, posture and alignment instruction, and even key educational tools so that you are given a chance to enjoy your pregnancy without stressing over it.
Diastasis recti is often more apparent postpartum. I usually recommend waiting at least 6 to 12 weeks before checking for a diastasis recti. Here are a few tips that can help prevent and/or heal a diastasis recti.
If I could have a dollar for every mom who wished she had rested more in order to spare herself injury. Rest is so important for healing your body postpartum and ensuring that you do not damage your core and your pelvic floor. We recommend getting back into exercise at least 6 weeks postpartum, but even then, easing into it is key. The “I want to get my body back” sentiment can be very harmful to a recovering body.
Once you are cleared for exercise by your medical professional, you want to focus on core building exercises which properly strengthen your core without aiding in diastasis recti development. My program Restore Your Core is designed for any woman with weak core issues such as: postpartum issues, diastasis recti, incontinence, and constant back pain.
Restore Your Core is designed so that you can use helpful and intelligent core building strategies not only during exercise, but in everyday motion. I help you approach healing and restoring your body in a personal way. I challenge you to train your whole body to move correctly in order to get you stronger and heal properly.
Join Our Community!
Join our community and connect with over 30,000 women dedicated to healing their pelvic floor issues. The RYC® Facebook group offers an intimate space for women to openly discuss and learn more about issues such as disastasis recti, leaky pee, prolapses, etc. You don’t have to be alone in your journey for a stronger self, join us today!