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Diastasis Recti & Splinting Vs. Waist Training & Corseting

Ok so I’m working on Part 2 of my Parasite story post but I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my recti diastatis since posting about it and I promised I’d share more info so I thought I better post this first!

First let me explain what diastasis recti is. Basically the abdominal muscle that runs up and down your belly, the rectus abdominis (the one that creates your six pack abs) is actually two separate muscles connected by connective tissue in the center. That tissue can stretch or split and separate. The belly button is the weakest point so often the separation is the worst there but can separate all the way from under your rib cage to almost your pubic bone. This happens when the transverse abdominal are weakened because or pressure in the abdomen. Most common cause is pregnancy but can also happen from digestive issues (in my case). Sometimes babies are born with it but they usually grow out of it and men can get it too. It’s actually the stage before a hernia which is when the inner organs push through the connective tissue and are seen pressing against the skin. This needs surgical repair but a diastisis can usually be repaired without surgery but surgery is an option. Note that surgery is a big deal so do your research. They use a mesh and it works well but it is possible to be allergic to it. Once it’s in it’s permanent so make sure you know all the risks.

Your diastatis takes some commitment to repair and depending on how bad it is you may decide to just live with it. Mine isn’t extremely severe because it’s not deep it does cause discomfort and  my core is definitely weaker than before, I also would prefer to have my flat abs back if you know what I mean 🙂 Plus I”m all about health and researching what works so I’m trying to heal mine especially before baby making time begins 😉

Abs - Female Anatomy Muscles

I figured out I had it by accident. First I had noticed how weak I was especially in the core once I upped training intensity after my treatment last month.  I really felt unstable in heavy lifts, especially dead lifts and squats and I suffered in advanced yoga. I could barely hold a plank let alone slow through an entire sequence. At first I thought it was from just loss of strength over the past year but as I continued to pick up intensity and began adding weight I really noticed an uncomfortable, unstable feeling. I’d read a lot about diastisis while researching for one of my clients  postpartum training protocols quite a while back. Everything about it was related to pregnancy so I didn’t think about it at first.  Then I noticed a strong pulse coming from a hard lump just under my belly button. I had my doctor assess it and she decided it was my aorta and because I was small we could feel it. The thing it I’d never felt it before. Then something triggered me, I think it was because I noticed a bulge when I got up from lying down and I went back to my notes. I did some more digging and realized diastasis could happen to anyone, I had a lot of symptoms so I started testing for it and I had it! My separation is considered a 1-2-2.5.  It’s the worst in my lower abdominals just under my belly button and that would have been caused by the extreme and constant distention I dealt with last year.  You test for this by lying on the ground on you back and feeling the depth and width of the space. It’s a bit strange and hard to tell what you have at first but you’ll get it. You can also have diagnosis via ultrasound or physiotherapist who specializes in this.

Essentially the abdominal muscle are stretched and are not supporting your posture the way they should and your belly and organs can protrude. It can also create or exacerbate a pelvic tilt because of the weakened muscles. Here is a great article talking about how our posture and alignment have much to do with getting it in the first place. A big deal for those who stick their ribs or booties our on a regular basis – think stage posing!

Not everyone gets it but it is pretty common especially for women having more that one child and especially if not repaired in between pregnancies. If you’ve had your baby and have lost all the extra weight but still have a protruding belly you can have it, or if you have a half football shape protruding out especially when you get up you likely have it. You might even just feel really weak in the core. Sometimes it’s very obvious especially if you are lean. Here’s a (not very exciting) video that shows you how to tell if you have it. Or click here for more.

The is a lot of bull crap out there about this as well as bull advice and treatments. My mom was told she had it and she had to live with it and never to do any ab exercises for the rest of her life. What the heck?! One of the most in depth treatment information/programs I found is by this woman in the video, Julie Tupler and it’s called the Tupler Technique.  She has a 6 week online program or you can just buy her DVD and perform it on your own.  This video and the program itself is a little dry but very well explained. Basically the program consists of a series of exercises performed 3x a day that focus on the Transverse Abdominals (TVA) as well as directions on wearing a splint. You could do this on your own without the program but having the interaction information is quite helpful.

The splint is like a brace and is built to pull the two rectus abdominal muscles together so they are able to heal. One draw back it you are not supposed to lift any weights during this process. There are some accounts where people have successful at healing it while still training albeit it may take a little longer. You have to be very careful when lifting anything up and there are certain exercises that must be completely avoided, for example any standard crunches, pike movement or planks or downward dog. The Pilates 100 should be avoided and also any cross body swinging movement like golf or swimming should be avoided. It’s really important you tell your yoga instructor or trainer that you have this and make sure they know what it means because many exercises can make it worse. You also have to be extremely careful when getting in and out of laying position. Always roll to your side and then come up and active your TVA for everything! Think belly button to spine, ribs to hips.

Depending on how severe your separation is you don’t actually need to complete the Tupler program for results, it’s just extra helpful.  Also you don;t have to splint to repair it. You can repair your diastasis by focusing on the actual exercises for your TVA as well as be careful not to perform movements that will make it worse. Here is another great site with lots of great info and strengthening exercises!! If you are in Ottawa I highly recommend  Core Connections for assessment and guidance, if elsewhere find a physiotherapist who understands and specializes in pelvic floor issues and diastisis.

The splint is meant to be worn all the time, even while sleeping and it’s not exactly comfortable. There is alot of velcro and you sound a bit like a maxi pad :O. You may also find it hot and cumbersome. Best thing is to wear a tank underneath it rather than having it up against your skin. Here’s how to put it on:

I get a lot of questions about if the splint is the same as the corsets that all the ‘celebrities’  are wearing. Although they are similar in that they are binding your waist they are not the same. The difference between the splint and a corset is that the splint is not meant to be tight but more of a pulling together action to keep the muscles back together while the heal. Like a stitch or a cast putting thing back where they belong.  Also you cannot heal a diastisis without the exercises. The splint in itself won’t work, it’s only an extra tool.

Postpartum belly binding is an ancient tradition and  similar to splinting injuries in that it puts things back in place using gentle compression. Binding can work along with the exercises (when ready)  in the same way. Remember to pull the muscles together when binding with cloth.

Corsets & Squeems are different.

The idea behind corsets or waist training is to make your waist smaller. It does this by displacing your organs (and bones to some extent) to shrink the waist. Essentially moving things around from one area in your abdomen to another. Think about that though. Those organs and bone have to go somewhere else. They get displaced from their place in the body. This is only temporary and will only last as long as you continue to wear it.

 

vintage corsetWearing a corset is really not a safe and healthy practice for any long term use. Unless you are also training abdominals properly you are not strengthening anything, in fact you are weakening the muscles because they aren’t being used. Muscles can atrophy when not being used. The fact is you actually own your own corset and it’s called your transverse abs (TVA). It’s the abdominal muscle that runs around your core and keeps everything tight.  Look up exercises on how to train it and it will serve you well protecting your back and giving you a flat belly and tiny waist.

You may notice your waist a little smaller after wearing a corset but again this is temporary and has been known to cause in internal injuries. It can also interferer with your breathing. You would be much better off training your internal corset, you transverse abdominals.

I could go on about the squad fad and it’s ridiculousness but this post was really more about diastisis so I will leave it here. If you want to know more about either topic let me know and I’ll write another more in-depth post.

I hope this post helps and as always I’d love to hear from you.

xoxo

25 thoughts on “Diastasis Recti & Splinting Vs. Waist Training & Corseting

  1. So I have a golds gym waist trainer and I’m almost positive I have diastastis recti, I’m 19 and had my first child, I’m 5’1 and weighed 110 before pregnancy and now125, could I have this or is it unlikely I do and it’s just tummy fat? I would go to a person who is expert about this but I have no idea what kind of person you talk to, someone at the gym? A doctor? Looking down at my stomach from my view it dips in near my belly button that’s what made me concerned that I may have diastasis recti… I really want it gone and a flat stomach like before, it just make me uncomfortable.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I have basically the same degree of diastis recti as you have written about here, and I always thought that surgery is my only option. I will definitely be looking into this some more- so excited to see that there is a way without slicing and dicing to get my stomach back!!

  3. My kids are 15 and 11 , can I still fix it ? Though I’m still not sure if I even have it due to a stubborn layer of fat that hangs under my belly button. So when I try check if I have it , I can’t feel anything because all the fat that I have lol I’m a slim person is just that fat but I also think I do have it but I can’t fell it on my own!

  4. Thanks for this info. I’m 8months postpartum and with diastasis recti(about 3fingers). It’s pretty demoralising looking pregnant especially since I’m small statured. Do you think it’s too late for me? How can i get the splint and online resources?

    1. Not too late! Start doing the exercises at the very least. I’d also suggest seeing a physiotherapist who is familiar/specializes in pelvic floor. 🙂

  5. I have a severe diastasisrecti, 9 at umbilical and 6 at sternum/pelvis. My PT has said noting will fix it, but I am desperate for something. I tried the Tuplar splint, but couldn’t make it work. I have zero space between top of hip and ribs, maybe a finger space at the side? Anyway, I need something to stabilize my back which is super bad. Is there a better splint for zero waist people like me?

    1. Hi Shira!
      I know there is a smaller Tupler one (I actually got both) but before that I would schedule an appointment to see a pelvic floor specialist who has experience with DR. She would be able to provide you with a treatment plan as well. The brace alone won’t correct it. Your back I would be sore because your abs are not engaging to support it. Even just some strengthening of those TVA muscles will helps but it may take you some time.
      I hope that helps!

  6. hello
    hello its my first time to read your article really liked it.but there some question i have for you here is a thing i hit the Gym 3 times a day for 4 month now its kick boxing actually i was expecting to shed some weight particularly in waist area but no such luck so far so i decide to buy corset but some of my friends suggested me to buy abdominal belt for hernia while working out at gym so what do you think i should buy.thanks for info! Ayda

  7. Hi there. This is the most informative info I’ve found so far on abdominal muscle separation. I didn’t fully realize I had it until recently….not sure how it slipped my attention for the 3 1/2 years since I’ve had my twins, but somehow I’ve been oblivious to it. I just assumed it was weakend muscles and stretched out belly skin, combined with an extra 30 lbs I haven’t lost that caused my belly to pooch so much still.

    My question to you is, do you think there’s still an opportunity for me to repair this after all of this time with it? AND, have you heard of this exacerbating digestive issues? I’ve had IBS my whole life and I feel like the gas I experience now is way worse since my twins were born.. and now have myself wondering if this is the cause of that too!!
    Also, I just recently joined the gym now that my twins are in preschool and am so glad I haven’t gotten into any weight/machine training yet. It’s scary to think I could have worsened this. My friend was scolding me recently about how if I really wanted to get rid of my belly I’d have to do crunches and sit ups, and I told her I think I had muscle separation, and she almost kind smirked at me like I was making up an excuse not to buckle down and do the exercises – which I kind of was ????????

    Anyway, thanks for this and any extra advice you have for me. I have 5 kids, and I don’t have a perfect body, nor expect one, but would love to feel sexy again, or at least not look pregnant anymore. I’m 5’2 and have a short torso, so my belly bulge can pooch out so much that I look 5 months pregnant sometimes, especially if I have gas bloating. I’ve .had several strangers ask me if I was pregnant since my twins were born ????

    1. I’m so glad you found my article helpful Kim! To answer your question, yes I believe you can absolutely close the separation and strengthen your core. You may never close it completely but that’s ok, you don’t need to but you do need to begin activating the TVA muscles slowly. They are the ones that help close it.

      You can do a lot of the work yourself with small exercises specific to diastatis and avoid the ones that can make it worse for now. You may like to see if you can find a physiotherapist or other professional who can experience with diastasis to confirm the size/severity of you separation get you going.

      What I found about the gas and stomach irritation is that when I’m bloated it shows up more dramatically because the abdominal muscles aren’t strong (or close together enough) to hold it in.

      Sometime the IBS issues are part of the problem and we make it worse with our posture and the way we lift and carry things. Work to repair your gut and your diastatis and I bet you will see things tightening up!

      Does that help?

  8. Hey pretty girl. I am wanting to look into this for me as my belly still has that pooch /buldge. I know years of bowels issues hasn’t helped along with having 3 babies. I have contacted core connections and have an appt on March. Is there any excercises you recommend on the web try. As my lower back is getting sore and I feel like my belly is pulling my back lol if that makes sense. I will need to adjust my ab workout as well. Looking for your amazing info. Thanks xo

  9. Loved this article thank you! I’ve been researching waist training in the hopes of getting my pre-baby pre-c-section teeny 6 pack waist back. I’m currently 8.5 months post partum. Your post was super informative! I’m totally going to concentrate on strengthening my TVA but was wondering which splint you used, for how long, and where you purchased it? I’m located in Montreal. Also interested to know if you know of any therepists who specialize in DR here in Montreal? However I’d be willing to travel to Ottawa did at least an evaluation if you highly recommend them. Thanks again!
    Denyce

    1. Hi Denyce!
      Thank you and apologies for not getting back to you sooner!

      There are many therapists who are familiar with diastasis recti, physio and osteopaths mainly. I don’t know any one specifically in Montreal but I do recommend Monate from Core Connections Physio in Ottawa. She is located on Richmond Road. I link to her in this post actually. She may even be able to recommend someone in Montreal. Most of what she teaches is how to really connect with the deep core muscles and your pelvic floor. Sometime the pressure of a tight pelvic floor can increase the DR issues. Most of your recovery will be avoiding certain exercises and focusing on really activating the TA during any movement. I used the splint I showed above for a few weeks when the separation was causing discomfort and did find it helpful in providing the support I needed. I think the exercises and avoiding more damage is most important though.

      I hope that helps!

  10. How did you go with the splint? My pilates reformer teacher brought my diastasis to my attention. I wasnt aware at all. Im doing research into it, thanks for your info and story! Justine

    1. Hi Justine!
      Thank you! 🙂 I found it really helped the feeling I have of instability especially while at the gym. Almost like a brace. It also think it helped bring together my abdominal wall but I’ve since learned that so can the specific exercises alone depending on how severe your separation is. There are physio therapists who specialize in diastasis if you are interested. Good luck and I’d love it if you kept me updated on your journey! I will write an updated post about this soon too. 🙂

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