Diastasis recti is a common, yet rarely diagnosed, condition that can contribute to multiple medical conditions. In short, diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal wall at the linea alba – the connective tissue that runs down the center of your abdomen, connecting all your core muscles. This condition is widely under-diagnosed; as a result, you may not get the information you need from your physician. In our experience as Core Rehab Specialists™, we’ve learned there are 5 main things your doctor may not address related to diastasis recti.
1.) Your doctor may not consider checking you for diastasis recti unless you request it.
Checking for diastasis in clients is not a normal medical evaluation or treatment plan for most physicians – even when there is clearly a weak core, back pain or instability. Historically, very little information is provided in medical school and even physical therapy school about this condition. Even then, most medical professionals do not have up to date palpation skills (the ability to feel for muscular abnormalities with your hands) to accurately diagnose diastasis recti. If you think you may have this condition, you can learn how to check yourself in this video.
Additionally, until recently there has not been a clear and effective treatment plan for diastasis recti. This discourages physicians to point out an issue that they have limited options to help treat. The Tummy Team is determined to change this by offering professional training for medical and fitness professionals. We are also working toward making a diastasis recti check a standard of practice for all prenatal and postpartum women, or any client (regardless of age or sex) that present symptoms of low back pain, pelvic instability and pelvic floor issues.
2. Diastasis recti is not normal.
Because diastasis recti has become so prevalent in our culture, it is often mistaken for a normal condition. Your abdominal wall was designed to stretch a little, but it should not remain stretched. If the stretching is severe (more than 2 fingers) and long-standing, then it will cause ongoing medical issues and needs to be addressed. Remember: common and normal are not the same thing.
3. Diastasis recti does not require surgery.
Because diastasis recti looks a lot like a hernia, it is very common for doctors & physicians to recommend surgery as the only option for treatment. However, since in most cases a diastasis is not life-threatening (like a hernia can be), it is not considered medically necessary by insurance companies. For this reason, patients are encouraged to seek plastic surgery and pay out of pocket for a cosmetic tummy tuck. The truth is, diastasis recti is a stretch that comes from muscle weakness, posture imbalance, and poor stabilization strategies. All of this can be reversed with the proper core rehabilitation. Not only is surgery unnecessary, but in most cases, it is not effective because the surgery does nothing to strengthen a muscle, change the alignment or retrain movement strategies – all of which led the problem in the first place.
4. Diastasis recti can contribute to chronic medical conditions.
A separated abdominal wall lacks the integrity to properly stabilize your spine, support your internal organs or hold your pelvic organs. This can lead to back pain, pelvic instability, constipation, pelvic floor dysfunction (incontinence, bladder or uterine prolapse), and much more. If we do not address how the core affects these conditions, then we are missing the key links to healing. It is much more common to be prescribed medication and traditional fitness or therapy strategies than to address these issues with functional core rehabilitation.
5. Traditional core exercises cannot fix diastasis recti.
When physicians do identify a diastasis linked to a weak abdominal wall, they encourage traditional core exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, and planks to strengthen the core. Unfortunately, what is not understood is that crunches and sit-ups contribute to the position and pressure on the connective tissue which created a separation in the first place. Planks typically reinforce bracing and bulging of the abdominal muscles and the gravity increases organ pressure on the weakened connective tissue.
Upright and elongating core work that will target the internal corset muscles of the abdominals is the way to rebuild the core. But this is useless if the muscles are not then used functionally and consistently throughout the day. It is this functional, consistent use of the core that The Tummy Team specializes in.
If you think you may be suffering from diastasis recti or chronic core weakness, we can help you! We offer many effective online courses and virtual appointments which allow our specialists to work with people all over the world.