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Physical Therapy Exercises for Diastasis Recti

Physical Therapy Exercises for Diastasis Recti

Have you been recently had a baby, and feel a separation between your ab muscles? Or maybe your doctor has diagnosed you with diastasis recti? If you are looking for help with this condition, this article will give you examples of diastasis recti exercises used in physical therapy.

What is Diastasis Recti?

As explained by GPT Physical Therapy at Ravenna, who offers physical therapy in Ravenna, Washington, Diastasis recti (sometimes called abdominal separation) is when the left and right side of your abdominal muscles are separated more than normal. This happens when the tissue that keeps both sides together is stretched too far out.

Having a flabby tummy after pregnancy is not always due to diastasis recti. To know if this is truly what you have, there are self-test that you can do, or you can consult with a medical professional. The signs that you have diastasis recti are:

  • Your stomach could be sticking out more than normal
  • Your belly button is now an outie but wasn’t before
  • When you touch your abdomen, you can feel that there is more distance than normal between your ab muscle

There are four different types of diastasis recti, depending on where the opening is. These are:

  • Open diastasis
  • Open below navel diastasis
  • Open above navel diastasis
  • Completely open diastasis

This condition is common among pregnant women or women who have recently had babies. According to WebMD, two-thirds of pregnant women are affected by this condition. Those who have a higher chance of being affected are:

  • Women over 35 years old
  • Women who have had multiple pregnancies close together
  • Women who have twins, triplets, or other multiples
  • Women who have rapid weight gain during pregnancy
  • Women who do not exercise correctly during pregnancy

This is not a condition only occurs in pregnant women, it is also seen in newborn babies and men whose weight fluctuates drastically. It can also be a result of overexerting yourself in weight training and other exercises or an abdominal surgery that didn’t heal well.

According to Livestrong, if gone untreated, diastasis recti can lead to poor core stabilization, pelvic floor dysfunction, and back or pelvic pain. Some of the negative effects that could present themselves if left untreated are:

  • Lower back pain
  • Bad posture
  • Bladder control issues
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Hernia (in extreme, rare cases)

Example of Diastasis Recti Exercises

It is important when you have diastasis recti to not do overly extenuating exercises like crunches, oblique twists, leg lifts, and planking as they could only make it worst. Physical therapist Michelle Kenway provides us with a great video with examples of exercises that you can do.

It is always best to consult with a professional such as your doctor or a physiotherapist before doing any type of exercise as they could potentially worsen your situation. I have compiled the following list of less strenuous exercises that you can do to help fix your problem.

Contract your core:

  • Start in a seated position
  • Put both hands on your abdomen
  • Contract your ab muscles by slowly sucking in your stomach
  • Focus on keeping your breathing slow and even
  • Hold for 30 seconds, repeat ten times

Core squeeze:

  • Start in a seated position
  • Put one hand below and one hand above your belly button
  • Keep breathing slow and even
  • Pull your stomach in quickly, hold for two seconds and release
  • Do this 100 times

Seated Squat:

  • Stand with your back against the wall
  • Slowly go down to a seated position, knees bent 90 degrees
  • Squeeze your abs and return to a standing position
  • Do this 20 times

Wall push-up

  • Face the wall at an arm’s length
  • Place your palms on the wall
  • Pull in your abdominal muscles
  • Bend your arms as if your doing a push-up against the wall
  • Pull in abdominal muscles even more
  • Use your arms to push yourself back up to the starting position while relaxing your abdominal muscles
  • Do this 20 times

Head lift:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent as if you were doing a sit-up
  • Cross your hands around your waist or use a towel wrapped around your midsection to stabilize the muscles
  • Inhale deeply
  • When you exhale, pull in your abdominal muscles and lift your head off the ground
  • Lower your head, and repeat 10 times

It is important to give these exercises time to help your muscles heal back to their normal position. Some people get discouraged because they do not see results, but stick to it. If you are consistent with your exercises and do them regularly, you should see results within 6 weeks.

When doing these exercises, remember not to contract your abdominal muscles too hard. Some exercise may suggest that you squeeze as much as possible when doing them, but this can have the opposite effect and make the diastasis recti worse.

Diastasis recti can be very scary, especially if you can physically see the separation of the muscles. But rest assured that it is nothing dangerous, and simple exercises can help you fix this issue and get your belly back to normal.