Firstly, apologies about the photo. We are guessing, she hasn’t had babies yet! But we wanted to focus on the female abdominal region and it is the only appropriate (ish) photo I could find that I am allowed to use! Now i’m guessing if you’re not female or not even pregnant, this may be of no interest to you unless your wife said “Hey darl, look this ‘diastasis wotsy’ one up”. Whilst it is true that men can suffer an abdominal muscle separation, it is not super common and not the focus of this article. Sorry blokes.
Diastasis recti is a condition that can occur during and or after pregnancy where a woman’s inter-recti abdominal muscles (you could say between your ab’s) distance increases. An increase of >2-2.7cm is considered a pathological diastasis (separation) of the rectus abdominis muscle (DRAM). Diastasis recti is a frequent occurrence with a prevalence of 30-70%. This condition is due to the thinning and stretching of the linea alba (the bit that separates the left abdominals from the right). These alterations occur due to hormonal elastic changes of the connective tissue, mechanical stress placed on the abdominal wall by the growing foetus and the displacement of the abdominal organs. The abdominal wall is key in many functions including, posture, trunk and pelvic stability, respiration, trunk movement and support of the abdominal viscera. This increase in the inter-recti abdominal muscles can potentially put these functions at risk and weaken the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. These changes then increase the vulnerability to injury of the lumbar spine and pelvis.
Studies show that exercise mainly targeting the abdominal/core strengthening during the ante and postnatal period reduces the presence of DRAM by 35%. The same study targeted activation of the deep abdominal muscles, in particular, the transverse abdominis (TA). It has been suggested that the Tupler technique, which is basically doing exercises whilst wearing a belly split type support. The TA muscle has strong links with the rectus abdominis and linea alba, strengthening it by deliberate activation exercises could protect this general area of the body and may prevent or reduce DRAM.
Exercises that target the pelvic floor muscle and transverse abdominis muscle have the potential to help prevent or decrease DRAM.
Good possible exercise choices include:
While lying on your back with your knees bent. Draw in the lower abs, straighten one leg and hold it about 15cm off the ground. Raise the opposite arm above your head. Keep the ‘connection’ with your abs.
Sit, stand or lie down with your legs slightly apart and relax your thighs, buttocks and abdomen muscles. Tighten the ring of muscle around your front and back passages drawing the pelvic floor muscles up inside. Try to complete up to 10 slow squeezes and 10 fast squeezing exercises.
With the above information notwithstanding, our advice is to have an exercise professional supervise any program where DRAM has been diagnosed as some exercises that seemingly target the core could worsen the problem if done incorrectly.