Diastasis Recti is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscle. It is actually a stretching of the fascial attachments surrounding the rectus sheath as the muscles part or split. It is noticeable as a bulge in the midline of the abdominals when the trunk is flexed during pregnancy. During the post partum period this area presents as a gap in the rectus sheath.
What causes it?
A diastasis doesn’t just occur during pregnancy. There are a number of other situations where the muscles may split. It is also not confined to women during pregnancy. Men are affected by this condition too.
There are many reasons why this happens.
>Incorrect body mechanics while exercising- performing sit-ups while bulging the abdominals is a prime reason for a split. Even with Pilates, performing an exercise like the 100 incorrectly over time may cause the muscles to separate.
>Genetics- yes we can blame it on genetics but only in SOME cases
>Weight gain- usually in men. Otherwise known as a “beer gut”
>Imbalance of the abdominal muscles- over exercising the rectus abdominus and/or the Transversus abdominus
>May also happen during the course of a C section.
To check for a diastasis in the postpartum client:
- Lie supine with feet on the floor and the knees bent.
- Arms should be by the sides.
- Place your two fingers horizontally into the stomach just below the navel.
- Exhale and have the client raise her head just off the floor.
- If there is a gap the fingers will sink into the abdominal cavity
- 1-2 fingers’ width soon after the birth is normal and will tighten over time with some modifications to exercise.
- 3 or more fingers’ width means steps must be taken to close the gap.
Remember not to perform this test until 3 or four days after birth, as the abdominal muscles will be too stretched to give an accurate result.
Many women are not routinely checked for this condition post partum and continue to exercise incorrectly thereby causing further damage to these muscles.
To check for a diastasis on a man or non childbearing woman:
- Lie supine with knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place the hands behind the neck
- Exhale and perform a crunch-flexion of the torso
- If there is a separation a bulge will appear midline
Having a diastasis will have an impact on the integrity of the abdominal musculature. It has been indicated in causing such problems as lower back pain. The cosmetic unsightliness of the abdominals postpartum can have a detrimental emotional effect on a woman especially if she is an avid exerciser. Anytime you have a misaligned muscle it will be a weaker muscle. In this case the rectus abdominus will not be firing correctly and will progressively lose its function. Muscle compensation will become apparent. The external obliques will start to take over the job of flexing the torso.
For more information on how to heal this condition we recommend our DVD Healing Exercises for Diastasis Recti.