Historically many cultures around the world have used belly binding or abdominal splinting as a common postpartum practice. There are considerable benefits to abdominal splinting (even beyond postpartum needs), yet many tend to discourage the practice based on misconceptions.
So what is it, exactly? An abdominal splint is a medical-grade, non-constricting support that reinforces the corset muscles of the body. When worn properly, it helps to pull together and stabilize the two sides of the abdominals. This allows healing, reconnection, and support for the core, spine, and abdominal organs. So the question remains: Why is abdominal splinting not common practice?
Let’s clarify some of the misconceptions that have lead people to believe abdominal splinting has little value.
Misconception #1: It’s a silly scheme to make you look thin.
There have been a few celebrities who created belly wraps and unfortunately marketed them as “get slim quick” products. This has reinforced the misconception that you can passively put something on your body to “fix” your tummy.
The Truth: Splinting is not a passive treatment plan or a fad to make your tummy flat. Proper abdominal splinting should be part of a rehabilitation process while the client participates in functional core strengthening and posture retraining. Splinting alone is never the recommendation. Passively wrapping your tummy does not increase strength or connection…only core rehab will do that.
Misconception #2: A splint should be worn as tight as possible, 24/7.
Following a misguided theory, “If a little is good, a lot must be better,” some people have attempted tightly wrapping the belly in a restrictive and aggressive way to hopefully get faster results.
The Truth: Correct use of an abdominal splint is to surround the torso with a snug and supportive pressure, but not tight and restrictive wrapping. Wearing a splint too tight actually restricts blood flow. If your abdominals feel numb, it is even more difficult to relearn how to engage them. The Tummy Team gives very specific guidelines for fitting and wearing a splint to eliminate people trying to power through pain or restricting natural blood flow.
Misconception #3: Using a splint will cause muscles to atrophy.
This is a valid concern. If used incorrectly (ie: too tight, for too long, and without rehab), using a splint can make muscles weaker and cause you to be dependent on the splint for support.
The Truth: A splint should be used as a supportive wrap on a sprained, unstable ankle. The wrap is necessary to support and assist the person to continue being active, but also protect the area from ongoing damage and misuse. At The Tummy Team, we recommend short-term, intentional use of a splint. During the rehab process, we gradually wean clients from the support while we systematically rebuild the proper muscles. How you use your splint is key to its effectiveness.
Misconception #4: A splint will do damage to your body.
There is a common thought out there that wearing a splint will actually make some of your issues worse. This stems from the misunderstanding that splinting is meant to be done as tightly as possible. This would create a restriction in the intestinal tract, cause too much pressure on the pelvic floor or even be harmful to the growth of your baby (if splinting prenatally).
The Truth: When worn as instructed, an abdominal rehab splint should simply reinforce the transverse abdominis (your corset muscle) as it was designed to function. Your body was intended to have a solid, meaty muscle that wraps around your body to support your organs and spine. A strong supportive core will not damage your intestinal tract, but rather helps it to be more efficient. And if you are pregnant, it will not constrict the development of your baby, but often support the uterus and help with optimal fetal alignment for delivery.
Learn how to fit yourself for a splint here.
We hope you have a better understanding of why splinting can actually reinforce and support your body during the process of restoring your core. The benefits of splinting are abundant, but it’s only part of the process. Your body has an ideal alignment for it to function optimally. Core rehab will teach you how your body was designed to function, then create the best conditions for it to heal, and then teach your body to work for you so you are strong for the life you want to live.
Check out our FAQs about splinting and splinting during pregnancy.
The Tummy Team is a resource for you to learn more about the role of abdominal splinting and the importance of core strength in real life. We are physical therapists and we live what we teach. We would love to see you in our clinic if you live in the Portland/Vancouver area or we offer comprehensive and effective online programs to meet the core strength needs of everyone, regardless of your age, gender or starting point. Check us out and see how we can help you feel and function better.