Physical Therapy for Diastasis Recti
Diastasis recti, a condition characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for many people.
Whether caused by pregnancy, excessive weight gain, or other factors, diastasis recti can lead to discomfort, weakened core muscles, and aesthetic concerns. Fortunately, physical therapy for diastasis recti offers a promising path towards recovery and restoration.
In this article, we delve into diastasis recti and how it can be treated and managed. By understanding the principles of physical therapy and its tailored approach, people affected by this condition can embark on a journey of healing and reclaiming strength, restoring abdominal integrity and promoting overall well-being.
What Is Diastasis Rectus Abdominis?
Diastasis recti abdominis, commonly referred to as diastasis recti, is a condition characterized by the separation of the rectus abdominis muscles, which are the muscles that run vertically down the front of the abdomen.
Usually, these muscles are attached together by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba. However, in cases of diastasis recti, the linea alba becomes stretched and weakened, causing a gap or separation between the muscles.
Diastasis recti often occurs during pregnancy when the growing uterus puts pressure on the abdominal muscles and stretches the linea alba. However, in some cases, the separation persists beyond the postpartum period.
The condition is more common in women, particularly those with multiple pregnancies or large babies. Other factors that can contribute to diastasis recti include advanced maternal age, obesity, and excessive abdominal exercises that are not performed correctly.
Treatment for the condition typically involves physical therapy for diastasis recti and targeted exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles and close the gap.
Signs and Symptoms of Diastasis Rectus Abdominis
Signs and symptoms of diastasis recti include a visible bulge or ridge in the middle of the abdomen, particularly during movements that engage the abdominal muscles.
Common symptoms include lower back pain, poor posture, and difficulty engaging the core muscles. Some individuals may also experience digestive issues such as bloating or constipation. It's important to note that not everyone with diastasis recti will experience symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.
Consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management, including physical therapy for diastasis recti.
Visible bulge or ridge in the middle of the abdomen
Prominent separation of the abdominal muscles
Bulge becomes more apparent during movements that engage the abdominal muscles (e.g., sitting up, doing a crunch)
Lower back pain
Difficulty engaging the core muscles
Digestive issues, such as bloating or constipation (in some cases)
What Causes Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti is primarily caused by the stretching and weakening of the connective tissue holding the rectus abdominis muscles together.
The most common cause is pregnancy, as the growing uterus puts pressure on the abdominal muscles and stretches the linea alba. Other factors contributing to diastasis recti include multiple pregnancies, carrying large babies, advanced maternal age, obesity, and excessive or incorrect abdominal exercises.
It's important to note that while these factors increase the risk, diastasis recti can also occur in individuals without any of these predisposing factors.
Pregnancy (most common cause)
Carrying large babies
Advanced maternal age
Excessive or incorrect abdominal exercises
Diagnosis of Diastasis Rectus Abdominis
Diagnosing diastasis recti typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional. During the examination, they assess the abdominal muscles and look for signs of a separation between the rectus abdominis muscles.
They may ask the person to perform specific movements, such as lying down and performing a crunch or sitting up, to observe any visible bulging or ridge in the abdominal area.
In some cases, additional diagnostic tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other underlying conditions. These tests include ultrasound imaging, or CT scan to get a more detailed view of the abdominal muscles and assess the extent of the separation.
It is essential to seek medical advice for an accurate diagnosis, as self-diagnosis based solely on visible symptoms may not be conclusive. Professionals will also prescribe diastasis recti physical therapy to treat the condition.
How Diastasis Recti Can Be Treated With Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is a commonly recommended treatment approach for diastasis recti. A physical therapist can provide guidance and a personalized exercise program to help strengthen the abdominal muscles and close the gap between the rectus abdominis muscles.
Physical therapy for diastasis recti:
Initial assessment: The physical therapist will perform a thorough assessment to evaluate the severity and specific characteristics of the diastasis recti. This may include measuring the width of the separation and assessing muscle strength and flexibility.
Education: The physical therapist will educate the individual about diastasis recti, its causes, and how specific diastasis recti physical therapy exercises and lifestyle modifications can aid recovery. They will also provide guidance on proper body mechanics and posture to avoid putting unnecessary strain on the abdominal muscles.
Core stabilization exercises: Physical therapy often focuses on strengthening the deep core muscles, including the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles. These muscles provide stability and support to the abdominal area. To activate and strengthen these muscles, the therapist will teach specific physical therapy exercises for diastasis recti, such as pelvic tilts, transverse abdominis contractions, and pelvic floor exercises.
Progressive exercises: As the individual progresses, the physical therapist will introduce more challenging exercises to further engage and strengthen the abdominal muscles. These may include modified crunches, planks, and other dynamic movements that target the core muscles while minimizing stress on the abdominal separation.
Breath control techniques: Learning proper breathing techniques can help optimize the engagement of the deep core muscles. The physical therapist will guide the individual in diaphragmatic breathing and how to coordinate breath with movement during exercises, to enhance core activation and support.
Postural awareness and modifications: The physical therapist will provide guidance on maintaining proper posture throughout daily activities and exercises. They may suggest modifications to avoid activities that strain the abdominal muscles, such as heavy lifting or certain exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure.
Gradual progression and monitoring: The diastasis physical therapy exercise program will gradually progress based on the individual's strength, tolerance, and healing progress. The physical therapist will closely monitor the individual's response to the exercises and adjust as needed.
It's important to note that the effectiveness of physical therapy in treating diastasis recti may vary from person to person.
Consistency, adherence to the exercise program, and lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding activities that exacerbate the condition, can contribute to successful outcomes.
Ways to Prevent Diastasis Recti
While it may not be possible to completely prevent diastasis recti, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk or minimize its severity:
Proper prenatal care: Seek regular prenatal care and consult with healthcare professionals who can provide guidance on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and minimizing excessive weight gain.
Core muscle strengthening: Engage in exercises that strengthen the core muscles, such as pelvic floor exercises and transverse abdominis contractions. It's important to perform these exercises correctly and avoid exercises that strain the abdominal muscles excessively.
Safe lifting techniques: Use proper body mechanics and techniques, especially when lifting heavy objects or during activities requiring exertion. Avoid lifting heavy loads or straining the abdomen.
Avoid excessive weight gain: Aim for healthy weight gain during pregnancy and in general, as excessive weight gain can strain the abdominal muscles and increase the risk of diastasis recti.
Posture awareness: Maintain good posture throughout pregnancy and during daily activities. Avoid slouching or hunching over, as this can contribute to abdominal muscle weakness.
Gradual return to exercise: After giving birth, gradually resume exercise routines and consult healthcare professionals or a physical therapist for safe and appropriate exercises that promote core strength and support to see a difference in diastasis recti before and after physical therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does it Take to See Results from Physical Therapy for Diastasis Recti?
The time it takes to see results from physical therapy for diastasis recti can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the condition, individual healing abilities, adherence to the exercise program, and lifestyle modifications.
In general, noticeable improvements can be observed within a few weeks to a few months of consistent and proper engagement in physical therapy exercises. However, it's important to remember that the healing process is gradual, and individual experiences may differ.
How Long Does the Physical Therapy Treatment for Diastasis Recti Typically Last?
The duration of physical therapy treatment for diastasis recti can vary depending on the individual's needs and progress. Typically, treatment can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
The initial phase may involve regular sessions with a physical therapist to assess the condition, educate the individual, and establish an exercise program. Subsequent sessions focus on monitoring progress, adjusting exercises as needed, and providing guidance and support. The duration of treatment may also depend on factors such as the severity of the diastasis recti, individual adherence to the exercise program, and the desired goals of the individual.
How Frequently Should I Attend Sessions for Diastasis Recti?
The frequency of attending physical therapy sessions for diastasis recti can vary depending on individual needs and your healthcare provider's or physical therapist's recommendations. In the initial stages of treatment, more frequent sessions may be recommended to assess the condition, educate you on exercises, and establish a proper routine. As you progress and become familiar with the exercises, sessions may be reduced to once or twice a week.
With its emphasis on targeted exercises, postural awareness, and gradual progression, physical therapy offers a holistic and effective approach to healing and strengthening the core muscles.
Remember, patience and consistency are key on this journey. By working closely with a knowledgeable physical therapist, adhering to a tailored exercise program, and making lifestyle modifications, individuals can experience significant improvements in their abdominal integrity and overall well-being.
Physical therapy can help reclaim core strength, restore confidence, and help rediscover the joy of a revitalized and resilient body. Contact us to get to know how Miracle Rehab Therapy can help you.