My name is Valerie Caron and i am a new mum to our four month old daughter. I am a physiotherapist that loves to read, play board games, and spend time laughing with friends and family. As a family we like to travel, camp and watch too much Netflix
The purpose of this blog post is for information only. Any advice taken from this post is to the reader’s discretion. This does not replace medical/professional advice from your physician or other practitioner. All clients/patients are different and should be evaluated/assessed/diagnosed/treated in person by their practitioner of choice. Consult your practitioner for any medical issues that you may be experiencing. This blog post is, to the writer’s best knowledge, accurate and sources can be found at the bottom of the article. It is important to note that medicine, physical therapy and other sciences are ever changing and recommendations/available resources are also constantly changing.
Diastasis Recti: what is it and what can you do about it?
During pregnancy, our bodies change at a rapid pace to accommodate baby. These changes can include (but are not limited to!)
- rounding of the upper back
- forward lean of the neck
- increase in the curve of the lower back
- changes in balance
- varicose veins
- and one of the most important for baby’s expansion: ligamentous laxity and stretching of connective tissues.
This increased stretchiness of connective tissues can lead to generalized joint pain, back pain, foot pain, difficulties with mobility, urinary incontinence, and diastasis recti. Diastasis recti is often associated with “Mummy Tummy” BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY is associated with drastic losses in function, loss of abdominal control, and pelvic floor problems (prolapse and incontinence).
Diastasis recti has traditionally been defined as a separation of the rectus abdominus muscle along the linea alba of more than 2 cm during and after pregnancy. That’s anatomical-speak for a larger than 2cm gap down the middle of the tummy or your “6-pack” muscle. It is caused by a normal thinning of the linea alba (a fascia responsible for creating tension across the abdomen) during pregnancy and the pressure of the expanding uterus and baby on the abdominal wall. Although the thinning is normal, a diastasis recti (small or large) can cause severe disruption of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor postpartum. This can greatly impact function of the trunk and appearance of the abdomen due to the fascia not being able to create enough tension through the abdominal muscles (http://dianelee.ca/articles/DRA-InTouch.pdf).
Although the size of the separation has long been the main focus of treatment (closing the gap), more recent research is suggesting that treatment should really focus on the “whole picture”. There is currently no standardized distance that is an agreed upon “normal” which is also a big part of why treatment has shifted towards a more multifactorial approach. Often the diastasis recti is one part of a much bigger picture that encompasses a whole person (abs, bum, pelvic floor, hips, back, etc.). Diagnosis of diastasis recti can sometimes be discouraging and conservative management is not always considered. Our bodies have an amazing potential for recovery and I encourage any woman (whether you just had your baby or you had a baby 25 years ago) to get informed and seek advice from a Women’s Health/Pelvic floor therapist!
This is where my plug for Physical Therapy and Pelvic Floor Therapy comes in… Diastasis recti can be challenging to treat conservatively because it relies on your fascia’s ability to recover. Physios are experts in retraining movement synergies, restoring function through new recruitment patterns and providing pain management strategies. Treatment will focus on return to sport/activity, providing education, postural re-education, manual therapy, safe exercise prescription and abdominal training, pelvic floor activation, breathing techniques, pain management strategies and SO MUCH MORE!
If any of this sounds familiar, PLEASE seek out advice from a local pelvic floor physio therapist! It will change your world! There will be a follow up post on pelvic floor therapy and the benefits! We have some amazing therapists here in Saskatoon and area including Charlene Reynolds at Nomad Therapies, Paula Anderson and Marina Forester at Lifemark 8th Street, Lisa Lepage at CBI Health East Location on 8th Street and Haylie Lashta at Warman Physiotherapy and Wellness.