If you’ve had a baby you might be familiar with the term Diastasis Recti (separated tummy muscles), sometimes resulting in the infamous mummy tummy. And if you have it then you probably want to fix it. Some people try crunches, planks and ‘belting’. But, fixing the symptom is just that, it is not addressing the underlying problem.
So what is Diastasis Recti? It occurs when the abdominal muscles’ connective tissues stretch and weaken at the mid-line, the linea alba. It appears that the right and left-hand sides of the abdominal muscles are separated. You may see a doming of your lower abdomen, or a ridge-shaped protrusion from breastbone to belly button when you roll up from your back or attempt a crunch movement.
Both men and women of any age can have a Diastasis Recti as it is caused by uncontained intra-abdominal pressure. However, women are more likely to have it given the pressures they suffer on their abdominal muscles when they are pregnant, and if they already have postural and alignment issues then having a baby can exaggerate these. Therefore, Diastasis Recti is a symptom of an already underlying issue, rather than the problem itself.
So, a Diastasis Recti can happen when the body is not aligned in a way that allows the core and pelvic muscles to do their job effectively. This may be because a person’s ribs are thrust out over their pelvis, or their oblique muscles might be very-tight. Alternatively a person’s shoulder girdle may be under constant tension – very common for new mums. These and/or many other alignment or movement habits could be causing increased pressure on the two sides of the abdominal muscles so they are pulled away from the mid-line of the body.
Therefore, addressing a Diastasis Recti must become a whole body solution. Simply concentrating on abdominal exercises alone will not fix the problem and could even make it worse. For example, doing crunches and the plank will just place more pressure on weakened abdominal muscles, pulling them further apart. You need to strengthen the core muscles from within and realign the body first.
So how can you check if you have a Diastasis Recti? Start by lying on your back, with your head down, feet flat and knees hip distance apart. Place your fingers above your belly button and press down. Then slowly raise your head and shoulders slightly off the ground and apply pressure. Your abdominal muscles will close in. Then check how many fingers can fit in the gap between the abdominals. If you can fit three or more fingers between your muscles then you have a Diastasis Recti.
But does it really matter if you have a Diastasis Recti? Well aesthetically, if you’ve lost your baby weight and have a Diastasis Recti or a mummy tummy, it can affect your body confidence. But more importantly if your body is not in alignment and your tummy muscles are separated, this can lead to other problems. That pouch is where there is no muscular abdominal wall to hold your organs in place; only a thin layer of connective tissue, therefore your organs protrude. Without a strong core, many people with a Diastasis Recti, can experience lower back pain, and 66 per cent of sufferers can have some form of pelvic dysfunction including a weak pelvic floor, urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
So how can you fix a Diastasis Recti? The medically approved MUTU System takes the whole body approach that’s needed and outlines the following steps to help:
Nourish your body with good, wholesome food – this is not the time to be crash dieting. Your body needs collagen boosting foods to heal itself. These include:
Use gentle exercises to find and re-engage your core. Start to move. For example, aim to walk at least 30 minutes a day. And make sure that you don’t do exercises that put too much pressure on your core.
Be aware of your posture and core alignment. Untuck your tailbone. Stand, sit and walk with proper alignment. Don’t thrust your ribs out and relax the shoulders. Aim to wear minimal or barefoot shoes. Even a small heel can put your pelvis into an anterior tilt which means that your body isn’t aligned and the correct muscles are not working. Finally, breathe into and from the diaphragm: this will again relieve pressure.
So following these steps – using the right exercise, adjusting your whole body alignment and working your muscles to get a strong functioning core and pelvic floor, can narrow the gap and strengthen and flatten your abdominals. But you might not ‘bring’ the two parts of the rectus abdominis muscle tightly back together again. This is ok as long as you have a strong core underneath to protect you.
If you would like more information about the MUTU programme go to: https://pz138.isrefer.com/go/10-things/becks76
As one of only 13 certified MUTU PROs I will be teaching a postnatal course incorporating the system. This six-week course starts Monday 29 January, 1-2pm at The Healthy Living Company.
For those who can’t make it I will be running two Love Your Core and Pelvic Floor workshops:
Saturday 24 February, 2-4pm at the Healthy Living Company, £26.79. To book go to: http://tinyurl.com/coreworkshop
Sunday 18 March, 2-4pm at the Float Spa, Hove, £26.79. To book go to: http://tinyurl.com/coreworkshop2
Tags: bn1 pilates, Diastasis Recti, MUTU Pro, MUTU System, postnatal fitness, pregnancy pilates, strength