Diastasis Recti: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

Diastasis Recti: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery

Struggling with a stomach bulge or protrusion isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying out myriads of exercise routines to get rid of it. And worst yet, it might get disappointing after some time. That’s because the protruded belly won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Commonly, pregnant women deal with diastasis recti, and the problem persists after childbirth. In this condition, the outermost abdominal muscles on the left and right sides of the navel have separated from each other.

What Is Diastasis Recti? 

Diastasis recti or rectus diastasis is a medical condition in which the “six-pack” muscles are entirely or partially separated. The widened gap between the rectus abdominis muscle causes the stomach to protrude or hang out. 

Only surgery can fix this problem. However, some exercises can also help. That depends on the severity of the problem, though. It isn’t something that only affects pregnant women. It can also happen to men and even newborn babies. Heavy lifting or the wrong exercise can result in this condition. So, if you’re struggling with this problem for quite a while, you should get yourself checked. 

Avoid doing anything that can make the condition worse. For instance, do not try to lift anything heavy. Carrying your own body weight can also adversely impact the diastasis recti. Crunches, push-ups, and certain yoga poses can also make the condition worse.

What Causes Diastasis Recti? 

Diastasis recti can develop due to the following reasons:

Pregnancy & Childbirth 

Pregnant women commonly experience this due to the stretching of the uterus. The abdominal muscles are unable to take the pressure, which results in their separation. Pushing during the birthing process can also lead to the separation of the abdominal muscles.

A woman who’s having twins or triplets is at a greater risk of having diastasis recti. Even after childbirth, the protruding belly might give it the appearance of a pregnancy belly. For years, the appearance of the belly can remain the same, which can cause aesthetic concerns for the person who is dealing with this issue. 

Genetics 

Genetics also has to do with the fact that some people are more vulnerable to developing diastasis recti than others. If the mother of the woman had diastasis recti, then the chances of her having it increase. 

Premature Birth 

A newborn child can also have this condition at birth. That can happen if the baby’s premature so that his/her abdominal muscles are not fully developed. It usually goes away on its own in that case. 

Sudden Weight Changes 

Your body may be prone to developing diastasis recti if you experience sudden and frequent weight fluctuations. When doing exercise, be careful and knowledgeable about what you’re doing as certain exercises can also tear the abdominal muscles apart. Core exercises that many women do after giving birth can end up damaging the core itself, leaving them with this condition. 

How Do You Know If You Have Diastasis Recti?

If you have diastasis recti, you can visibly see the separated abdominis rectus muscles. It might not be painful, but there are other problems that come with diastasis recti. And they can cause you pain. For instance, you can experience:

  • Lower back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Bad posture
  • Digestive issues
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Urinary incontinence  

One telltale sign of diastasis recti is that the bulge stays even after you’ve lost your pregnancy weight. You might still look pregnant. Other than that, you’ll also notice that your belly protrudes more if you’re sitting down. That’s how you can know if you have diastasis recti. 

How To Check For Diastasis Recti?

Usually, hands and fingers are used to check for diastasis recti. The number of fingers that can fit in the space between the separated abdominis rectus muscles indicates the severity of the problem. You can test yourself at home by doing the following:

  • Lie down on your back while bending your knees and placing your feet flat on the floor.
  • With one hand behind your head, lift it up and look at your stomach.
  • Using the other hand, feel the ridges of the separated muscles along the stomach.
  • Put your hand above the belly button between the separated walls of the muscles and see how many fingers can fit into the space.

In general, you are diagnosed with diastasis recti if the gap between the two muscles is more than 2 centimetres (almost equal to 2 finger space). Diastasis recti is considered severe when you can fit in 4 to 5 fingers in the space between the separated muscles.

It is difficult to know if you have diastasis recti while you’re pregnant. You might be able to get any confirmation about its presence a few weeks after giving birth. Also, while you can check for diastasis recti at home, you should also get in touch with a doctor. They may perform an ultrasound or use a calliper for a more accurate diagnosis. 

How To Prevent Diastasis Recti?

There are some things that you can do to try and prevent diastasis recti from developing:

  • Strengthen Your Core –  Do some core strengthening exercises (deep breathing, planks, pushups) before you get pregnant to prepare your muscles for what’s to come.
  • Maintain Healthy Weights – Try to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy by consulting about your diet and pregnancy-safe exercises with a doctor.
  • Don’t Strain Yourself – Be mindful of day-to-day movements and postures that put a strain on the abdominis rectus muscles (trying to get up after lying down without support from your arms & hands).

How To Fix Diastasis Recti?

You may be recommended the following for the treatment of diastasis recti:

Exercise 

The diastasis recti exercises that you want to try out for treatment should first be discussed with the doctor, especially if you’ve recently given birth. Your body needs time to heal, and if you exert too much pressure on it, you can end up harming yourself. To begin with, take it slow. Sit-ups and crunches are an absolute no-no. Any yoga poses in which you have to be on your hands and knees are also harmful. 

Exercising with a belly splint can also provide support to the abdominal muscles. Wearing it when you have diastasis recti can also help. However, keep in mind that if your diastasis recti is severe, then you shouldn’t rely on exercise alone to heal. If the symptoms of diastasis recti persist 8 weeks after you’ve given birth, then you should go to a doctor for a check-up. 

Postural Training

Other than exercise, you should also do postural training. Whenever you sit down, you should put a pillow underneath yourself. This can provide support to your back. Your doctor might also recommend some deep muscle exercises or the ones involving your pelvic floor muscles. Do not try any intensive exercise routine without discussing it with your doctor. 

Tummy Tuck

If the muscles are separated too far apart, you might need to undergo tummy tuck surgery for treatment. There’s a reason why undergoing a tummy tuck surgery for diastasis recti is the better option. When you have tummy tuck surgery, the surgeon removes the excess fat and skin. The surgeon will bring together the two rectus abdominis muscles so that it leaves the stomach contoured and smooth. 

Keep in mind that you won’t necessarily have to undergo all these things during the surgery. Your needs and preferences will determine what gets done during the surgery. It also largely depends on the anatomy of the patient. 

Without surgery, it’s not possible to treat a severe case of diastasis recti. With a diastasis recti tummy tuck, the surgeon will repair your muscles and remove the excess skin which causes aesthetic concerns even after the protrusion is gone. 

How Long to Recover From Diastasis Recti Surgery? 

If everything goes normally during the recovery process, you can expect things to get back to better in a few weeks. You can go back to work at least a couple of weeks after the surgery. Do not do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for at least a month after the surgery takes place. It will take some time for the swelling to go away. You might also need to wear a compression garment after the surgery, as it helps you with the recovery process.

Still, keep in mind that the recovery process from any surgery largely depends on the patient itself. How old the patient is, what’s their lifestyle, and any history of illnesses can all determine how slowly or quickly the patient recovers. 

Concluding Remarks 

Diastasis recti, if severe, can be best treated through tummy tuck surgery. The stomach bulge from the separation of the outermost abdominal muscles can have an unsightly appearance. Moreover, it can cause other issues, such as back pain, constipation, etc. This can negatively impact the quality of life of a person. 

Diastasis recti tummy tuck surgery will also take care of the excess skin and fat. You can enjoy a smooth, contoured body afterwards. Some exercises can help, but if the muscles are widely separated, surgery offers the only treatment. If you’re suffering from this problem or have any other questions, get in touch with a doctor.

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