WHAT IS A DIASTASIS RECTI?
The word diastasis means separation. So a diastasis recti is a separation of the rectus abdominis or the outermost abdominal muscles. When the muscles separate, the connective tissue that joins them stretches sideways. The more it stretches sideways the thinner and weaker it becomes.
Everyone is born with their muscles separated. Whether it closes depends on the amount of force or pressure on the connective tissue that joins the outermost muscles. If the muscles close, they are always at risk for separating again when there is this continuous force on the connective tissue. Force can be caused by:
- Weight gain in the abdominal area
- Growing uterus during pregnancy
- Doing abdominal exercises incorrectly
WHAT PROBLEMS ARE CAUSED BY A DIASTASIS?
The function of the outermost muscles are to support your back and your organs. When the muscles separate this support system is weakened causing low back pain and the "mummy tummy " or “guy gut.” The mummy tummy or guy gut is actually your protruding organs. They are protruding because they are now being supported by a thin (saran wrap-like) piece of connective tissue instead of your muscles if they were together. If there is trauma to the abdominal area and the connective tissue is torn away from the muscle, your organs will come through and a ventral hernia can develop. Surgery will be required. A large diastasis on a pregnant woman will cause the uterus to tilt forward putting the cervix out of alignment. This will make pushing the baby out vaginally much more difficult.
Closing the diastasis will give you a flat belly, a smaller waist and relieve any back problems you are having. It will also make pushing in labor much more effective.
HOW IS A DIASTASIS CLOSED?
It is NEVER too late to close a diastasis! Closing a diastasis is all about healing the connective tissue. A diastasis can be closed on anyone at anytime! How long it takes depends on the severity of your diastasis and your commitment to the program.
HOW DO YOU CHECK FOR A DIASTASIS?
A diastasis can be checked both during and after pregnancy. The object is to determine how many fingers will fit in the space between the two recti muscles. You also want to determine the condition of the connective tissue. The deeper your fingers will go towards your spine, the weaker the connective tissue. If you feel a pulsing while you are checking, this is a sign of very weak connective tissue. Start with your middle three fingers. You will also want to measure your waist before you start on the program. This measurement will get smaller as the muscles start coming together.
Lie on your back with yourknees bent. Place your fingers in your belly button. Your fingers should be pointing in the direction of your toes.
Relax your abdominal muscles and lift your head. If you are holding your abdominal muscles in as you check it will give you a false reading as this will make the diastasis appear smaller. The muscles will get closer together the higher you lift your head.
To get a more accurate reading, it is important to check yourself when you first start feeling the muscles coming together. You might have to come up and down a few times so you can feel how the muscles work. If you don’t feel the two ridges of the muscles with 3 fingers you may have to put more fingers in. If you see the football- like ridge you should start by using 4 to 5 fingers. You may even have to use 2 hands if your diastasis is very large.
The solution to this common problem is Julie Tupler's 4-step program for closing a diastasis. I will explain the 4 steps in my next post, but if you can't wait that long, feel free to check out Julie's website, where you will find a wealth of information on diastasis recti, including the 4 steps to closing one.