Bringing Truth to the Controversy of Abdominal Splinting

The Tummy Team recommends abdominal splinting with about 95% of our core rehab clients. Abdominal splinting can be an effective component of the comprehensive rehab process. However, there are several misconceptions about splinting and as a result, some controversy in the medical community about the use of an abdominal rehab splint.

The controversy is that splinting too tight, for too long, and without rehab can lead to muscle atrophy, disconnect, and dependence on the splint. We encourage you to consider abdominal splinting as you would use a wrap on a sprained ankle. If wrapped too tight, left on for too long, and if the muscles were never trained for walking, then it would be ineffective. But used properly – with the right amount of support for an intentional amount of time and while encouraging the client to safely use the ankle – it can be a very effective way to assist the rehab process.

Here are the most common misconceptions about abdominal splinting and what we believe to be true:

1. Splinting alone will heal your diastasis.

The Truth: Most of us would love it if we could just put on a splint and it would magically fix our tummy issues, but while splinting is an important part of the healing process it is most effective when combined with functional core rehab.

2. Splinting makes you weaker.

The Truth: Splinting alone without functional core rehab and for an extended amount of time can allow you to rest into the splint and use it as a crutch. This is NOT how we recommend splinting to be used.

3. The tighter the better.

The Truth: If the splint is secured too tightly it can decrease blood flow and lead to disconnect, both of which delay the healing process. We encourage clients to use the splint a supportive hug to remind and reinforce proper alignment and postural muscle activation.

4. Splinting makes pelvic floor symptoms worse.

The Truth: If a splint is positioned too low and too tight and not combined with functional core rehab, some clients will feel increased pressure on the pelvic floor. When used properly, the splint should never make symptoms worse but should feel supportive.

When used properly an abdominal rehab splint can effectively…

  • Reinforce neutral and active pelvis and rib alignment
  • Provide consistent sensory feedback for proper posture, and activation of the transverse abdominis
  • Remind you when you are collapsing, bracing, bulging or otherwise compensating with your core so you can modify and adjust your movement patterns
  • Approximate the right and left side of the abdominals to cue transverse activation and decrease stress on the linea alba (the connective tissue the gets stretched out down the center of the abdominal wall in a diastasis)
  • Protect vulnerable linea alba while living an active daily life
  • Increase blood flow, sensory feedback, and proprioceptive feedback to the core
  • Support the gradual transition of using the core muscles more and more throughout the day
  • Supplement the missing strength required to stand tall and elongated while continuing with the daily demands of real life

Key things to remember when using an abdominal rehab splint…

Splinting is only one part of core rehab. The Tummy Team offers multiple functional core rehab online programs to meet your needs. Check out our programs here.

A splint is meant to be temporary while retraining the core muscles, and worn snug but not tight. Our goal is not to replace your corset strength with a splint. Our goal is to use a splint temporarily to supplement the little strength you may be starting with and reinforce the exercises and the process of our rehab programs so that your muscles get stronger, faster and your healing time is greatly condensed. We think about a splint like “training wheels” for your core muscles.

How we wear an abdominal splint matters! Be sure you know how to wear your splint so it is positioned over your transverse abdominis and it is not too tight or too restrictive. There are many types of splints out there. The Tummy Team sells several types of splints and we focus on helping you find the splint that supports your core most effectively. Check out how to find the right splint here.

When you wear the splint matters. When you are using your splint to supplement core rehab be sure to wear it during most of your waking hours during your first few weeks of core rehab. Then start to gradually take it away, using other postural and exercise tools to engage your transverse abdominis. Splinting at night can be beneficial for those with a deep and wide diastasis (larger than 3 finger width) or those who are experiencing pain during the night while trying to sleep. Sleep in more important than splinting in the healing process, so if the splint interferes with your sleep don’t wear it at night.

We want to be sure to reiterate that splinting WITH core rehab is the best way to go. If you are looking for a splint to use as you are training to heal and strengthen your core, we recommend taking a look at our abdominal rehab splints. Click here to check them out. Below, you can see our most popular options for online core rehab.

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The Tummy Team focuses on functional core rehabilitation and abdominal splinting is a part of that process. We are dedicated to helping clients understand why and how the rehab process works. We have several resources about abdominal splinting here and even more resources about diastasis and the core rehab process here. If you are local in the Camas WA area come see us at our clinic. If you are not local check out one of our 7 comprehensive online core rehab programs. Our goal is to validate your symptoms, educate you on how your body heals and give you meaningful resources to reclaim your core strength to make you strong for life. Let us know how we can help you.

Take a deeper look into our programs! Click on a program to learn more…

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