What is diastasis recti, and why does it matter? If you have poochy abs that won’t go away, read on to see if this might be the cause. Diastasis recti is a separation (complete or partial) of the rectus abdominis, resulting in stretched-out linea alba (midline fascia). You can have a separation above, at, and/or below the belly button. Many women notice a gap in their abs or a flabby belly that won’t seem to go away and isn’t from excessive fat. Some women have no symptoms while others experience lower back pain, constipation, or urine leakage. When you have diastasis recti, it impacts your hips and affects your pelvic floor (which can lead to dysfunction), and can even impact your sex life! It’s caused by excessive pressure within the abdominal cavity and occurs over time as more pressure is put on the abdominals than they can tolerate.
The most common cause of this is pregnancy (think expanding belly plus maternal weight gain), but it can also be caused by heavy lifting, breathing incorrectly, obesity, or excessive straining of the abs from overdoing certain exercises. I had a three-finger gap (that’s how it’s measured) after both of my pregnancies and was able to close it on my own. I recommend working to resolve it on your own first, and if you are unable to heal it, consult with your doctor to determine whether or not you need surgery to fix it. Many traditional exercises can actually make the issue worse, so be careful. Exercises such as crunches, planks, sit-ups, push-ups, and leg lifts all place a significant amount of pressure on your abdominals, and when you have diastasis, this can widen the separation. Many women do these exercises hoping it will create a flat belly, and for someone with diastasis recti, it can do the opposite.
Our breathing also impacts diastasis recti as our diaphragm makes up the top of our core. If your ribcage is not expanding when you breathe your pelvic floor is not ascending and descending as it should be when you breathe, you are creating extra pressure in your abdomen. Our body works together, so having diastasis recti is going to affect the rest of your core, leaving it compromised since we are interconnected. Diaphragmatic breathing is key, and if you’re a chest or belly breather and your diaphragm doesn’t move, it’s something you will want to work on.
If you have diastasis recti, it’s something you will want to address, because your core is weakened and more susceptible to injuries. When we have excessive pressure in our abdomen, our pelvic floor experiences excessive pressure as well, so it often leads to pelvic floor issues and imbalances. Below is a video on how to self-check to determine if you have diastasis recti. If you do, I recommend starting my Go-To program, which is designed to help it heal and will also strengthen your pelvic floor and stabilize your core. As I mentioned, I had a three-finger gap after both of my pregnancies and used the program to heal my diastasis and body. For most women, they will be able to help close the gap on their own; however, if you find with time it does not improve, I recommend consulting with your doctor. Strengthening your core and working to resolve it on your own will help you be stronger if you do end up needing surgery, and for so many, will end up fixing this issue.
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