What Is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis recti (rectus abdominis) is a condition where your abdominal muscles become thickened or “stacked” like a rope, which makes it difficult to move through them. This condition results from the failure of the muscle fibers to relax and lengthen properly during exercise. The result is tightness in one area while other areas remain loose. When this happens, it causes pain and discomfort throughout the body.
The term “diastasis” means “folding”. Rectus abdominis refers to the front portion of the abdomen, while obliques refer to the back portion.
The word rectus comes from Latin meaning straight line. Abdominal muscles are made up of two types: slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch muscles contract slowly over time; they have a short life span and require a long period of rest before they recover their strength again. Fast twitch muscles contract quickly and often overdrive themselves into injury. They last longer but do not recover as well. These two types of muscle fibers work together to produce movement.
When the rectus abdominis becomes too tight, it prevents the fast twitch fibers from working effectively and restricts movement in all directions. This condition is called “tightening.” Abdominal muscles tighten when the body requires more support around the trunk.
They are also called into action whenever you perform an activity involving twisting or lifting of the legs or arms.
The stomach plays a vital role in supporting your organs as well as protecting your internal organs from damage. The spine and pelvis are held in place by multiple muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
The tension created by these attachments must be balanced on both sides to prevent them from creating pressure on internal organs. Weak stomach muscles or weak back muscles affect the spinal column and make the spine vulnerable to injury.
How Is It Treated?
Diastasis recti is most effectively treated during pregnancy because it’s easier to do so. First, stop doing crunches and other abdominal exercises that tighten your abdominal muscles. Focus on exercising your lower body and thighs rather than your upper body and core. Second, wear a pregnancy support belt. These belts provide back support and help your abdominal muscles to relax. By keeping your abdomen supported as it expands with the growing baby, you give these muscles something stable to grip onto. This keeps them from tightening up while also allowing them to expand as needed.
After you have your baby, it can be difficult to impossible to do traditional ab workouts. However, you will need to start doing something to get the muscles working again.
You may need to have your physician or midwife show you how to do these at first, but over time you’ll be able to do more and more of them on your own.
First, start by lying on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply as you slowly count to ten.
Then, slowly roll over onto your right side and hold that position for about a minute. At that point, slowly roll over to your left side and hold that position for about a minute. Finally, slowly sit up and then stand up.
Next, start doing a “bicycle” motion with your legs. Lift your legs a few inches off the floor and cycle your legs as if you were riding a bicycle.
Do this for about a minute and then rest for a few minutes before doing it again. You can gradually increase the amount of time you do this exercise over time.
Finally, start doing Kegel exercises. These can help get your internal muscles working again and strengthen them after having been stretched during pregnancy.
To do this, simply tighten the muscles you would use to stop urinating in mid-stream. Hold the contraction for a few seconds and then relax for a few seconds and repeat. Over time, you can work up to doing these continuously for a longer period of time.
These exercises should be done every day, even if you don’t notice any improvement at first. Many women see an improvement within two to three weeks, but it can take up to six weeks for you to see the full benefits.
In some cases, you may need to have surgery to repair the separation if it’s severe enough. Make sure to ask your physician if this is an option for you. In any case, most women find that they can get back to doing the types of exercises they did before pregnancy within six months after giving birth.
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