Have you been told you have a diastasis recti? Have you tried some DIY treatments but haven't been able to improve it? As a pelvic health physical therapist, there are several professional treatment options that I recommend: physical therapy, laser therapy, functional neurology, gut health, hypnosis, and/or abdominoplasty surgery (if necessary).
Diastasis rectus is a separation of the abdominal muscle due to the thinning of fascia called the linea alba. This happens during pregnancy, increased weight gain, or in some cases it is our genetics. Fascia is made up of bundles of collagen fibers and is a very resilient tissue but can be permanently damaged if overly stretched.
To test for diastasis recti, you just need to lie down on your back (hooklying), place your fingers at your belly button, and then lift your head. The deeper you can get your fingers into your belly button the more damage you have. Measure how many fingers you can get between the separation. Also measure above and below your belly button. Anything over 2.5 fingers width is considered a diastasis. If you're not exactly sure if you have it, consult with a physician or physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health.
Seeing a pelvic floor therapist can be a great option to help decrease your diastasis recti. They will check the mechanics of your breathing patterns and how you can activate your core. Breathing is super important to help diastasis recti heal properly. A method called, hypopressive breathing, can not only help your diastasis recti close, but also help with incontinence, prolapse symptoms, constipation, etc. Hypopressive breathing is a method to help decrease overall pressure in the body by eccentrically lifting up the diaphragm. The only way to do so is a breath holding technique and engaging other breathing muscles besides the diaphragm. You do not want to work on this technique when you are pregnant but can definitely work other breathing techniques to help you get ready to perform this technique when you are postpartum.
Another way you can work on your diastasis rectus is with laser therapy. A Class 4 laser works by increasing energy to the cell and allows better nutrient absorption. This will help damaged tissue repair and restore back to normal function. If you have a diastasis rectus from pregnancy there is no wait time for you to start laser therapy. The earlier you come in the faster you will recover.
If you are going to be doing laser therapy you might also have gut health checked for better nutrient absorption. Increased inflammation in your gut can cause increased abdominal bloating and will continue to put pressure on your linea alba, causing it harder to heal. Seeing a functional medicine practitioner can assess your gut health and help heal your diastasis rectus.
There are also manual therapists that help treat diastasis rectus with functional neurology. Functional neurology uses specific techniques that can reset the nervous system so the brain can communicate with the muscles effectively. For example, if you have an injury to your low back it can create an inhibition (turn off) of the abdominal muscles particularly the transverse abdominis. Transverse abdominis is an essential muscle to help stabilize the spine and hold tissue with the same integrity as the linea alba. Remember that muscle from above? Super important to help repair a rectus diastasis. Functional neurology can help bring your muscles back online.
Prior to the past year, I would have never thought about sending my clients to hypnosis to help correct their diastasis recti. However, physical manifestation is the ability of the fascia to store emotions. And where are emotions stored: the mind. So it's possible to "re-program" your abdominal muscles by affecting nerve connections between your mind and body. This is hypnosis. There are several different types of hypnosis. Two methods that I am more familiar with are Quantum Medical Hypnosis and Cellular Release Therapy. QMH is a more passive type of hypnosis and CRT is more active. Both are amazing tools.
Lastly, if you are not able to improve your diastasis recti with non-invasive procedures, you can always have abdominoplasty surgery. Basically put, abdominoplasty is correcting the mechanics. This procedure shouldn't involve cutting any muscles. Rather they take sutures and create a corset by pulling the muscles back together.
Do you also have stretch marks? Stretch marks have no more elastic capabilities to recoil back. It is like taking the elastic band out of your underwear and breaking it. There is not a great way to glue those elastin and collagen fibers back together. With the abdominoplasty they are getting rid of damaged skin. Recovery time involves 6 weeks of no lifting over 10-15 pounds. It really takes a full year for the scar tissue to fully heal.
Are you dealing with diastasis recti? Please contact me at Activcore Castle Rock to start doing something about it.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.