There are so many questions to ask about Diastasis Recti—What is it? How does it happen? How do I know if I have one? I want to demystify the Diastasis Recti so you have an understanding of the how, the what, and the if you have one. Here is a quick overview and a step by step guide on how to test if you have one. Don’t worry it is not too involved it is a super quick test and you do it while laying down!
While diastasis recti can happen in women and men, it is most common in women postpartum. In fact, it has been stated that all women have a diastasis recti postpartum. For most women, this resolves naturally in time. All newly postpartum women should exercise with diastasis recti precautions until you restore your core strength. Keep reading there are more tidbits on how to monitor that progress so you will know when your abdominal wall is strong enough to resist more challenges.
What is a diastasis recti?
It is the spreading of the tendon that runs down the center of the abdominal wall, this tendon is known as the linea alba. All of the abdominal muscles meet and attach onto the linea alba and it runs from the sternum to the pubic bones. The linea alba is responsible for giving our abdominal walls stability and integrity.
When women have children, our stomachs grow to create space for babies – and this leaves us with stretched out muscles and tendons. The stretching of the linea alba is what is called a diastasis recti. When this tendon is stretched there is a shift in the integrity of the abdominal wall. It is believed that as we start to heal postpartum, the muscles and tendons start to knit back together unassisted. And for most people, it does! For some of us, however, it does not. Full disclosure, I am one of those people. After having two kids, I had a full length diastasis recti running from the rib cage to the pubic bone. When standing upright for years afterwards, I still looked VERY pregnant, had chronic back pain, and impaired use of my shoulders; I essentially had no core stability. I eventually had to have surgery to stabilize the diastasis recti due to further injuring myself in the process of trying to make it better. In the process I gained an in
depth understanding of the diastasis recti and how to overcome it safely; I wish I knew then what I know now.
Not every diastasis recti will run the full length of your linea alba. Here are several other variations of what they can look like internally:
How do I know if I have a Diastasis Recti?
I have a simple test that will allow you to know if you have one, where it is, and how big it is. I tell my clients to use this test to monitor your progress with healing.
Lay yourself down onto the mat, with knees are bent and feet flat on the floor.
Curl your fingers so that you are touching the top of your fingertips to center line of your core, where the linea alba is.
Starting near your sternum, gently push down into the tendon. Continue this palpation all the way down to your navel. Ideally, we want this to feel nice and firm the full length of the tendon.
Pick up your head again. Do the same palpation starting at the base of the ribs/sternum and down to the navel.
If you want a video to help with step by step instructions check out my youtube channel.
Did your tendon feel the same the whole way down? If it did not change then you do NOT have a diastasis recti. If it changed, how did it change? Did you feel a gap, like a little cave that your fingers could gently push down into? Gently and mindfully, see how fit length and widthwise in that space where you have the ability to push down. That opening is a diastasis recti. When you’re doing this, take notes on what you are feeling: the depth, sponginess, length, and width of the opening. This space can shrink as you rebuild your core, which is a sure sign you’re making progress!
When talking abdominal wall integrity there is one more thing we all need to look out for.....abdominal doming. One common symptom that I want you to be aware of while exercising is abdominal doming. Doming can happen with or without a diastasis recti, it is a sign of abdominal wall weakness. Doming is when your core pushes up and outwards during abbominal exercises, it can happen at the beginning of abdominal exercises or in the middle as muscles fatigue out. Abdominal doming is when the core bulges up and outward along the linea alba. This puts increased stress on that tendon sheath, which can cause a diastasis recti to develop or worsen if ignored. If this is happening to you it is a sign that we need to work on your deep core strength.
The good news about doming, just like a diastasis recti, is that there are strengthening exercises to help us correct it.
Now let’s address an unspoken truth about exercising after giving birth: if you are pushing your body too hard and too soon, your diastasis recti may not decrease in size or even get larger. It is challenging to figure out how hard to push yourself when rehabilitating. Have patience with yourself! Keep track of the details about your diastasis recti and/or doming, as that provides feedback on how hard to push your core muscles.
Now you have an all-around better understanding of the elusive diastasis recti. If you have one or have found weakness no worries. We’ve got you. Stay tuned for the next Blog and video to start teaching you how to safely exercise with it and start strengthening it.
Live long and strong!
LIABILITY WAIVER. This program is not intended to diagnose any illness or injury. By participating you are acknowledging that you are aware of your own health and physical condition, and are participating at your own risk. Not every exercise is safe for every person; correct execution of exercises is crucial to injury prevention. Please consult your healthcare professional with any questions about exercises. Having such knowledge, I hereby acknowledge and release Shari Barta Wellness, LLC from liability for accidental injury or illness which I may incur as a result of participating in the said physical activity. I hereby assume all risks connected therewith and consent to participate in said program.