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How to Treat Diastasis Recti
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How to Treat Diastasis Recti

How to Treat Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti is separation between the left and right sides of the abdominal muscle. It often looks like a bulge or ridge running through the middle of the belly that increases with muscle strain. This separation is very common during and after pregnancy. One study shows up to 60 percent of women will have diastasis recti after giving birth, while other researchers estimate the prevalence is much higher.

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

Pregnant women experience elastic changes in the connective tissue of the abdominal wall. This is due to multiple factors, including hormones, stress from the growing baby, and shifting of the abdominal organs. Anyone can have diastasis recti. However, these factors increase your risk for developing the condition during or after pregnancy:

  • Carrying twins or triplets
  • Delivering a larger-than-average newborn
  • Having excess amniotic fluid
  • Having multiple pregnancies
  • Obesity

What Does Diastasis Recti Feel Like?

You may notice your abdominal muscles stretching and lengthening during the second and third trimester. It also can occur after birth due to stress of labor and delivery. Some women have diastasis recti without symptoms. Others may have pelvic floor dysfunction and ongoing lower back pain that lasts beyond delivery.

If you have uncomfortable symptoms that aren’t going away, it may be time to seek help. Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital provides specialized services for women with many different conditions, including diastasis recti. Start with your OB-GYN if you suspect you have diastasis recti. Your OB-GYN can formally diagnose the condition and guide you through treatment.

Treating Diastasis Recti

Sometimes diastasis recti can heal on its own. Other women may need to seek treatment. Physical therapy and exercise is the first-line treatment for diastasis recti.

Exercise

One small study found that following an exercise program can help reduce diastasis recti within three to nine weeks. Below are some exercises that might help, but always seek recommendations from your doctor first.

Arm and Leg Extension

  1. Begin on all fours.
  2. Lift one leg straight behind you. Extend the opposite arm in front of you.
  3. Bring the knee in toward the elbow while contracting the abdomen.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Bridge (Stability Ball)

  1. Rest your head and neck on the stability ball.
  2. Lift hips, knees and ankles in a 90-degree angle.
  3. Slowly lower hips towards the floor. Raise them back up. Keep your knees over your ankles, not your toes.

Cat-Cow Pose

  1. Begin on all fours.
  2. Draw in the abs and round your spine to the ceiling. Slowly exhale.
  3. Release your spine and drop the stomach toward the ground. Lift up through your sitting bones.
  4. Alternate between the moves while breathing through each exercise.

Hip Circles (Stability Ball)

  1. Sit straight on the ball.
  2. Move hips in small clockwise circles. Keep the core engaged instead of relying on the legs.
  3. Switch directions and move hips in counterclockwise circles.

Pelvic Tilt With Crunch (Stability Ball)

  1. Sit straight on a stability ball. Slowly roll down, walking your feet out in front of you until the ball supports the lower back.
  2. Roll shoulders off the ball in a crunch. Squeeze the lower abdominal and pelvic floor.
  3. Slowly return hips to start position. Repeat.

Plank

  1. Hold your body in a plank position. Focus on drawing in the abdominal muscles.
  2. Keep hips tight and try not to sag.
  3. Hold a plank until you lose good form. Focus on holding proper form rather than staying in the position for a long time.

Surgery

Diastasis recti doesn’t usually require surgery. However, if exercise or conservative treatment fails, your doctor may recommend surgery as a last resort. Surgery can be considered six to 12 months postpartum if diastasis recti hasn’t resolved on its own. Many surgeons will wait one year before operating. Patients may have open, laparoscopic or robot-assisted surgery. Ask your doctor if you would benefit from having surgery for unresolved diastasis recti. Henry Mayo Fitness and Health is open! Make an appointment to learn more about exercises for diastasis recti.

Henry Mayo Fitness and Health is open! Make an appointment to learn more about exercises for diastasis recti.

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