Postpartum Health and Diastasis of Rectus Abdominis

holding abdomen

Have you been struggling and frustrated in your core exercise program related to postpartum health or inappropriate abdominal conditioning for many years?

Abdominal or lower back discomfort and the inability to strengthen your abdominals may be related to diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle.

Rectus_abdominisBy definition this condition is a separation or split of this extremely important support muscle. After all when you have a weakened abdominal or core structure the first place that you will feel it is in the lower back region.

For those of you not familiar with the rectus abdominis it is commonly referred to as the six pack muscle. For women the most common cause is pregnancy due to the expansion of the abdomen. Statistics show that approximately 2/3 of pregnant women will shows signs of this in the third trimester. This condition is less likely in men but occurs when there is overloading of the abdomen in sports or poor technique while training.

In this article I will discuss treatment for this condition and getting back your postpartum health.

Symptoms

Here are some of the classic symptoms of this condition (1) a belly button that became an outie when it was always an innie (2) unable to lose that tummy even with intense workouts (3) always bothered by lower back pain or constantly throwing the back into spasms (4) some urine spill with sneezing, coughing, laughing or sitting to standing (5) always feeling weak with activity and (6) tenderness along the belly of the rectus abdominis or abdominal wall.

Treatment

Cold LaserOne of the most important factors that you must recognize with this condition is that the rectus abdominis easily becomes inflamed. It is very difficult to strengthen any muscle that is inflamed. In my opinion the best way to rid this muscle of inflammation is cold laser treatment.

Another factor to understand, traditional abdominal strengthening must be discontinued because that is a prime source of inflammation. If you suspect diastasis rectus abdominis it is so important to see a physical therapist well acquainted with strengthening deep core muscles (transverses abdominal) and pelvic floor musculature. Poorly executed abdominal exercises will definitely cause more separation of the rectus abdominis. Unsuitable abdominal exercises include sit-ups, straight leg raises, pilates, and trunk rotations.

pelvic floorPatient should also be given instruction on correct body mechanics, proper posture, appropriate exercises for the abdominal region and proper exercises to re-approximate the bellies of the muscle without increasing intra-abdominal pressure. Patients should be taught how to (1) retrain the concentric and eccentric control of the abdominal musculature and (2) to stimulate the functional role of the abdomen in trunk stabilization. Many times the specialist will recommend abdominal supports or splints when the patient is exercising. All of the above help in the postpartum health of the mom!

The prognosis for these moms in most cases is very good!  Diastasis Rectus Abdominis usually heals on its own but under the proper guidance of the physical therapist. The average time is between 6 weeks and 3 months.