Diastasis Recti: What is it and how can physical therapy help before, during and after pregnancy?
Diastasis Recti is a thinning and stretching of the connective tissue between the two sides of the rectus abdominis or “6-pack” muscles. This separation is absolutely normal and necessary during pregnancy to allow for the growth of the baby but when the separation lasts after delivery, this is the time to reach out to a pelvic floor physical therapist for guidance through healing a diastasis. Recovering from a diastasis includes the ability to build up tension within your core vs “closing the gap.”
The function of this connection in the body is to transfer load through the trunk. What does that mean? Well, think about picking up your baby from the floor or out of the crib. You need to use your arms and legs. The connection point between the upper and lower body involves the abdominals (the trunk of the body). If this area isn’t working at its finest, (if the connective tissue is too wide and/or squishy) this can lead to pelvic floor issues, abdominal pain, back pain and sacroiliac joint instability. Not fun.
What helps? Getting the deep core system firing correctly, breathing with the diaphragm (not your neck and shoulders) and using good strategies for moving through life: lifting, reaching, sitting, standing, pushing, pulling, you get the point.
Before pregnancy: If you know you’re already dealing with a condition like unintentional leaking of urine, if you have back pain more so on one side vs the other, hip pain, whatever it may be, learning how to get your muscles balanced and working together will help you avoid further dysfunction during pregnancy, especially as the hormone fluctuations lead to even more joint laxity. Even if you don’t have an issue or pain prior to pregnancy, making sure your muscles are firing properly and equally and connecting to your deep core system will help tremendously during and after pregnancy.
During pregnancy: Let’s talk about the ribs! Our breathing muscle (the diaphragm) sits under the ribs. If the ribs aren’t moving and they don’t expand well for a big deep inhale, more pressure may push on the abdominal wall, potentially making a diastasis worse. Working on and being aware of standing posture can also help to limit the amount of strain put on the abdominal wall during pregnancy.
After pregnancy: All of the above and then some. If you are already connected to and aware of your deep core system (pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm, deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominis) and back muscles) prior to delivery, you may have an easier time recovering from a diastasis. Either way, working with a pelvic floor physical therapist is key. You’ll learn how to use your muscles properly, keep yourself balanced, and progress through corrective exercises to heal your diastasis.
So much can be accomplished through a virtual physical therapy session. If you have questions, schedule a free phone consult to see if a virtual session is right for you.
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