Diastasis recti may sound scary, no matter what name it goes by. Also known as abdominal separation, this condition affects the muscles that cover the middle of your stomach, often causing pain and weakness in the abdomen and lower back.
The condition is most common in pregnant women, with one study finding that diastasis recti can affect six out of every 10 women during and after pregnancy. However, the condition also can occur in men and women who are not pregnant.
Fortunately, diastasis recti is treatable, with a few easy exercises having the ability to resolve the condition in many cases. Here’s how to tell if you may have diastasis recti, and what you can do to correct it.
Diastasis recti occurs when too much pressure builds up in the abdominal cavity. Specifically, the condition involves your rectus abdominus muscles, the muscles covering your stomach that are more commonly known as the muscles that can give you that sought-after “six-pack” look. In diastasis recti, these muscles separate, leaving a gap between them in your core area.
The reason why this condition is so prevalent during pregnancy is that your abdominal muscles stretch during the process, causing muscle separation. The condition may also be caused by lifting weights incorrectly or with too much weight. Obviously, abdominal exercises in particular are culprits for developing the condition.
Here are some of the most common warning signs and symptoms. Be aware that many of these symptoms will get worse when you contract your abdominal muscles.
- Back pain
- Bulge or “pooch” in the abdominal area
- Pelvic pain
- Posture problems
- Weakened core muscles
In men, diastasis recti can often be mistaken for simple weight gain or an expanding “beer belly,” so if you are a man and you believe you may have an abdominal separation, be sure to pay extra attention to the warning signs.
Perhaps the most serious problem that can arise from diastasis recti is a hernia, which happens when internal tissue or even organs push through a weak spot in the muscles or tissues. Hernias are painful and require surgery to correct, though the surgery is relatively minor and full recoveries are typically expected.
The good news about diastasis recti is that it is treatable. Although it may seem counterintuitive, especially if your time in the gym is the culprit behind the condition in your case, some basic exercises can help your muscles regain their normal strength and form.
You should consult your doctor to get a diagnosis before beginning any rehab program. The doctor may prescribe physical therapy to help you along. But for many people with diastasis recti, a few simple exercises are often enough to get you back on track.
As overly intense exercise can cause this condition, it’s important to take it easy on your fitness routine as you’re working to overcome the problem. However, there are some lower-intensity exercises that can help you build back these muscles and get back to normal.
- Core Candles: While sitting or standing, inhale deeply and then exhale as if you are blowing out a huge cake’s worth of birthday candles. This gently engages and tightens your core.
- Pelvic Clocks: Lie down on your back with your feet on the ground and knees at a 90-degree angle. Think of your body in a clock position, with 12 o’clock being the middle of your core, six o’clock at the pubic bone, and each hip being either nine o’clock or three o’clock. Slowly move your pelvis around to each clock position, relaxing your legs and upper body as you do so. By doing this, you relax the upper half of your body while your hips allow for pelvic rotation without engaging the legs. Complete 7-10 rotations.
- Pelvic Tilting: Get down on all fours and inhale, slowly contracting your core as you do so. Hold the pose for a few seconds before exhaling. During the exhale, allow your back to come to a resting position and your core to relax as your belly extends. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Planking: This is one of the most popular plyometric exercises out there today. Lie down on your stomach with your arms underneath your body and forearms facing forward. Lift your abdomen off the ground so that your toes and forearms are supporting your body weight. Engage your core and hold the position for 10 seconds. Shoot for two or three sets of 10.
In most cases, diastasis recti is relatively easy to treat and resolve. Be sure to talk to your physician for more information, and to be mindful of the signs and symptoms. A few lifestyle changes, including better form in the gym, may be all you need to resolve this issue — or keep it from happening altogether.
BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.