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 😉
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.
Wearing 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.