And thanks to Dr.med.Google we can all self-diagnose…or can we? Going down that path can be reassuring, confusing and frightening all at the same time. I have gone down that path many times before, playing TV diagnostician Dr House, believing it’s a piece of cake with all the info out there on the WWW.
What is Diastasis Recti Anyway?
All women when pregnant have DR, as the baby is growing inside the womb it needs more space therefore the connective tissue sitting in between the left and right abs rec muscle is stretched creating the distance or as often called “the gap”. And how great is the female body to be able to make these adjustments for the growing baby!!!
The (Sometimes Obsessive) Diastasis Recti Test
From my own humble experience over the past four years talking to Mums and feeling hundreds of tummys, I can share that almost every single Mum knew of DR and prior to meeting me had tested herself by crunching and feeling their ab gap with a finger or three. With some it had become a bit of an obsession, especially if it was their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th baby. Sometimes that “new Mum” could tell me how big a gap she had after each child and how long it took for the gap to decrease in size. Don`t get me wrong I love body awareness in so many different and healthy ways, but what I am getting at here is how self diagnosis can lead to an obsession.
Do you constantly curl up and place your fingers in between the left and right rectus abdominis muscles measuring if the gap is now smaller than it was last week?
What if I tell you that you can have a completely functional core despite DR? Would it still matter how many fingers you can squeeze into the Linea Alba?
Even though I always assess my clients and measure the DR I explain that it’s a general check not only to feel for the size of the distance or depth but also for the tension in the linea alba itself. What comes first is the question of general well being. How is the body feeling? Does anything feel strange or is there any discomfort in the belly area? Any bulging or heaviness? How is the pelvic floor? Lower back, etc? More often than not it will correlate with a wider DR but not always.
Living Well with Diastasis Recti
A while back a friend of mine who is a Pilates teacher (and former dancer) and I were investigating this. This friend of mine, June, had a baby in her early twenties and now 15 year later she has a very visible gap of about 2 cm (I should mention that she has an athletic built and has a lot of muscle definition and I hate her… joking I LOVE her, she is awesome). June has been living with a functional DR for years, teaching Dance and Pilates, running, lifting her child, hauling shopping into the house, all without discomfort, pain or leakage. There is no doming of the tummy either when she activates her core muscles. It has never impacted her life other than maybe wondering if she can close the gap with more specific exercises. She has been able to a certain extent i.e. 2 cm, so on paper yes it is DR but is very functional and next time you see a shirtless Calvin Klein model or watch the Chippendales ( should male strippers be your thing), I nearly guarantee you that you will see a gap and this would most likely be linked to continued intra abdominal pressure doing a 1000 plus crunches a day. I would love and maybe one day I will do research about the male body builder, DR and its effects.
When does Diastasis Recti become a problem?
With a functional Diastasis Recti you can certainly start more challenging exercises if that is what is wanted, but always tune into the body to check if anything is changing.
If there is a wider gap, alongside pelvic, lower back and hip pain, no to low tension in the linea alba, pelvic floor is leaking (think sneeze pee) and difficulty to activate your deeper abs (Transverse Abs) it is highly likely it’s a not functional DR and I would at this point highly recommend to make an appointment with a local women’s health physiotherapist to have an assessment or a full Mummy MOT done.
Diastasis Recti Exercises
Most likely you will be able to heal and strengthen the whole pelvic, core and lumbar region with the VONLATES program, there are only a few rare cases that really need surgical intervention. And even for those cases the exercises in the Program can help pre and post surgery.