What Is It?
Functional Core Weakness (FCW): The inability of the muscles of the core to effectively function and support the body for everyday physical demands without pain or dysfunction
Diastasis Recti (DR): a separation of the abdominal muscles
While Diastasis Recti is a diagnosis, it is also a symptom of a much larger issue known as Functional Core Weakness. It is possible to suffer from functional core weakness without having diastasis recti. But you cannot have diastasis recti without having functional core weakness.
It is important to understand the impact of both of these conditions on your body.
What Does It Feel Like?
Here’s how clients describe what it feels like to live with Functional Core Weakness:
- collapsed posture – even if you want to stand or sit tall, you cannot maintain it
- thin, weak, and deflated abdominal muscles
- back pain (low, mid and even upper back)
- weak and disconnected feeling from your core and your body
- feeling like your back or hip could “go out” at any moment (instability)
- sluggish intestinal function
- weak pelvic floor function
Here’s how clients describe what it feels like to also live with Diastasis Recti:
- you have a gaping hole in your tummy
- a bulging, tenting, or pouchy tummy
- a trench down the midline of your belly that sometimes bulges out when doing a sit up or even coughing
What Is Causing This?
The True Function of the Core
You have a group of core muscles that are primarily responsible for holding you up. The main muscle in this group, the transverse abdominis, is beneath your other abdominal muscles. It is the only muscle that wraps completely around the body to have a front, back, right and left aspect all in one. It is essentially a natural corset designed to elongate the torso and balance the entire body by securely connecting the upper and lower body. When this muscle is strong and active, it is your largest postural muscle, holding your organs up and in, and provides stability for your spine.
Why the Transverse Is Important
When the transverse abdominis muscle is stretched out, deflated, and inactive, your body collapses, your abdominal wall can bulge and your body functions on less effective compensation patterns. Without the pressure this muscle provides against your organs when active, your intestinal tract becomes sluggish leading to constipation, acid reflux, and even menstruation issues. Without the stability this muscle is intended to provide the spine, you suffer from SI joint instability, pubic bone pain, chronic back pain, and more. Over time, this lack of connectedness, strength, or stability forces your body to recruit other muscles to function. We call these compensation patterns.
The Cause of Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti is a midline separation of the right and left sides of the abdominal wall. It can happen to men and women, regardless of age, weight or fitness level. It is caused by the most common compensation pattern for Functional Core Weakness: consistent forward and forceful pressure against the abdominal wall. This pressure can be from chronic poor postures, traditional abdominal exercises like crunches, sit-ups or planks, chronic constipation, and habitual bracing or bearing down.
With Diastasis Recti, the connective tissue that runs down the center of the abdominals (the linea alba) becomes thin and your organs push forward, contributing to a bulging tummy and increasing the risk of a hernia. Because the abdominal muscles help support the back and organs, a separation will cause your support system to be weakened leading to instability and pain. The overall Functional Core Weakness also contributes to digestive tract issues, menstrual cycle issues, prostate issues and pelvic floor problems for men and women. Pregnant and postpartum women tend to be more susceptible to developing Diastasis Recti due to the extreme stretching of the abdominal wall combined with the effect of relaxin hormones on the connective tissue that occurs during pregnancy. (See more about pregnancy and diastasis recti here)
How Do You Fix It?
Both Functional Core Weakness and Diastasis Recti are treated the same way. Unlike what most people are told, diastasis recti does not require surgery and can be corrected with functional core rehabilitation. You will be amazed at how rehabilitating your core will affect your entire body. Our Functional Core Rehabilitation will strengthen the core, minimize movements making it worse, reconnect you to your body, close the separation, flatten your belly, relieve back pain and other symptoms, as well as retrain your body mechanics, posture, and alignment for long-term success.
The Tummy Team will help you regain neuromuscular control of your abdominal muscles and relearn how to use them correctly in all aspects of your life. We aim for functional use of muscles. Our goal is not to get you stronger for exercises, but stronger for living life. (Learn more about The Tummy Team approach)