Diastasis recti (DRA) is a hot topic right now. Let’s chat about what it is, possible symptoms to look out for, and common myths with DRA.
What is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti looks at the linea alba, the fascia between the rectus abdominis. That’s all a clinical way of saying that we’re looking at the tissue that connects your 6 pack ab muscles. If you think of your core as a canister, you’re looking at the area in the front center.
The common goal is to have good tension on that tissue, meaning it’s taught and has good bounce back when you press on it, and have the width between the ab muscles less than 2 fingers wide. A diagnosis of diastasis would likely come in when either of those conditions are not met. You can have good tension and more than 2 finger width (functional diastasis), less tension and 2 finger width, or less tension and more than 2 finger width. Or really and and all combinations of things.
Will your OBGYN check you for this at your postpartum visit?
Not likely, and if they do, it’s possible that they aren’t going to give you the most up to date guidance. And that’s ok. OBGYNs aren’t meant to be experts in all things core and pelvic floor health. My advice is to see a quality pelvic floor physical therapist early postpartum or learn to assess yourself.
Do only postpartum women get diastasis?
Nope. Diastasis is a pressure management issue on the tissue where continued outward pressure has stretched the linea alba. This can happen in pregnant women, in women pre-pregnancy, and even men.
Pregnancy does, however, increase your risk factor due to the expanded outward pressure on the midline of the stomach. That’s one of the reasons why I always recommend learning your breathing and pressure tendencies as early as possible to help you mitigate symptoms.
What are some symptoms of diastasis?
- Coning vs Doming – Does your stomach come to a point down the middle when doing a movement like a sit-up or pushup or does the whole abdomen seem to protrude?
- Is there a gap and how is the tension? – Yes you measure the distance with diastasis, but the tension of the fascia of the linea alba is just as, if not more important.
Breaking up some diastasis myths:
– You don’t have to close the gap. Again, the distance isn’t the end all be all in terms of function. Can you approximate, or close, the rectus with different strategies? Have you built back up your strength and tension where these strategies are automatic responses for your movement?
– You can’t prevent DRA. This one is important. I see a lot of programs telling women they can prevent or heal DRA with x, y, or z product or a specific set of exercises. There is no data that shows DRA can be prevented. Can we look at risk vs reward, movement and breathing strategies, and other techniques to help decrease the pressure on the linea alba (especially during pregnancy)? Sure. That isn’t the same thing as prevention though.
– Surgery isn’t the only way to fix DRA. It’s one way. However, many people are able to work with a qualified coach (oh hi there!) and PFPT to gain better core connection and pressure management strategies to help rehab a diastasis. Even if surgery is scheduled, this can be an invaluable step beforehand.
– There aren’t specific exercises to help you fix or close a diastasis. Even though they are advertised, there is no specific exercise or combination of exercises to close, repair, or heal DRA. DRA is a compound issue which takes an individual and multifaceted approach. Core connection, pressure management strategies, and progressive overloading tailored to you is what is best.
If you want to learn more about diastasis recti and all things core and pelvic floor, check out Core and Pelvic Floor Basics for Lifters.
We cover all things core and pelvic floor in this guide. From breathing, bracing, and nutrition to what your abs and pelvic floor should be doing when you lift. Find out what is normal when you pee and even what your feet have to do with your pelvic floor.