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Diastasis Recti...What Is It? How Can Physical Therapy Help?

Written by Karen Munger
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Have you ever wondered why you have done 100 crunches and sit ups
and yet your abdominal muscles still look flabby andIMG 0049 your low-back still hurts?  If so, you may have a diastasis recti. 

After delivery of a baby or after a c-section surgery this issue can occur. A diastasis recti is the separation of the rectus abdominus muscles (6-pack abs) that are situated vertically extending from the rib cage to the pubic bone.  If there is a space between the abdominal muscles greater than about two finger lengths when a person is lying on their back with their knees bent and head lifted from the floor, this could be the problem.  Additionally if a “hump” is seen in the abdomen between the “6 pack abs”, this could also indicate that a diastasis is present.  In the case of a diastasis, the connective tissue between the abdominal muscles has been lengthened and has not returned to the original length, creating limited ability to produce force with the rectus abdominal muscles.  Many abdominal exercises done in the gym could actually worsen this condition.

Diastasis recti can occur in anyone, but the chances of having a diastasis are greater in women over 33 years of age, have been pregnant or delivered multiple babies, women who have carried large babies or gained greater amounts of weight in pregnancy, and those who have had a c-section.  Individuals who have had multiple abdominal surgeries could also be at risk for this problem.

Muscle imbalances can result from pregnancy and diastasis recti and can lead to impaired patterns of muscle use after delivery.   Abdominal muscle dysfunction is highly coordinated with low-back pain.  Specific abdominal exercises, issued by trained professionals, have been shown to decrease low-back pain and improve muscle tone while correcting muscles imbalances. 

So how do we treat it? Believe it or not most individuals do NOT need surgical repair.  It can be treated by a physical therapist who has experience with treating diastasis recti.  You will likely be given specific exercises to bring the muscles back together and allow the connective tissue between the muscles to adapt to the new position.  Education will be provided on exercises and activities to avoid during the recovery period.  Postural training, breath training, and possible use of soft splinting or taping may also be a part of the treatment regimen.

If  you think you or someone you know may have this condition, come in to The Center for Physical Rehabilitation for a free consultation or ask your physician for a physical therapy prescription for treatment.  A skilled therapist will assess you and determine a treatment plan tailored specifically for you and your individual needs.  It will likely only take 4 to 6 visits!   Yes! It is possible to have toned muscles and a pain-free life after childbirth!

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