You’ve had a baby and now you’ve got a bulge in the middle of your belly. What is it and should you worry?
Here’s a simple way you can check for diastasis on yourself. Lay on your back and feel your belly just above your belly button. Lift your head and gently push your fingers down into your abdomen. You may feel a couple things:
Your fingers just keep going and everything feels soft and squishy
You feel firmness on the sides of your fingers but not directly underneath
You feel firmness on the sides but the skin underneath your fingers pops up into them
These are signs of diastasis rectus abdominis or DRA.
You could also feel a firm wall underneath your fingers, nothing sinking in or pushing out more in one place than the other. Great!! This is normal and shows that your transverse abdominis is doing its job to support the abdomen.
(Permission to use copyright image from Pelvic Guru, LLC pelvicguru.com)
Diastasis Rectus Abdominis is the thinning, or weakening, of the linea alba. The linea alba is the tendon between the 2 sides of the abdominal muscles. When weakened it is more difficult to create appropriate intra-abdominal pressure needed for breathing and bowel movements. If the abdominals can’t function it can lead to back, SI and hip pain. Because the abdominals and surrounding muscles (core) are so vital to all of our daily functions it is important to properly rehab this diastasis through learning proper muscle activation, avoiding activities that will worsen the thinning, and progressing appropriately to a sustainable workout routine for lifelong health.
So what exercises are safe? It can be difficult to know what exercises are helping and which are harming so let’s break it down a bit.
There are abdominal exercises that focus on the transverse abdominis. These exercises, when done properly close the gap and tension the linea alba. Some examples of this are bridges, lower extremity extension, birddog and planks. You probably noticed with these exercises your trunk is staying in a neutral position and your legs or arms are moving. The transverse abdominis provides stability rather than movement at the trunk.
Other exercises focus on the rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis, or RA, is the muscle that creates the 6-pack. These exercises require movements where your legs and shoulders or head are coming toward each other such as a crunch. Other examples are v-ups, toe touches, sit ups. These exercises can be performed correctly without abdominal doming or diastasis worsening if done correctly and the transverse abdominis is engaged throughout the exercise. Many people don’t have a good foundation for doing these correctly and worsen their diastasis.
Lastly we have the obliques which provide rotational movements. We rotate hundreds, if not thousands of times in a day so these muscles are important. Rotational exercises that work the obliques are Russian twists, bicycle crunch, rotating plank, and cross-body mountain climbers. Again, if done correctly with a solid transverse abdominis engagement these are safe exercises. If an abdominal bulge or diastasis is observed or if symptoms such as leaking or pelvic pressure occur then the exercise should be discontinued until muscle imbalances and weakness are corrected.
Any exercise can be safe if your body is strong enough and the muscles are coordinated and activating correctly to perform the exercise. Not sure if you’re performing the exercise correctly? Join me in a discovery call and let’s talk about your workouts and how you can resolve diastasis.
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