By Melanie K. Nelson
What it is?
Diastasis Recti is also known as abdominal separation. The rectus abdominis is the “6 pack” muscle that reaches from the breastbone to the pelvic bone. It is naturally divided into the right half and the left half connected by a thin connective tissue called the linea alba. In cases of Diastasis Recti the tissue gets stretched, weakened, and sometimes completely torn at the front of the abdomen resulting in a gap between the two muscles. Diastasis Recti is common with pregnant or postpartum women due to the excessive intra-abdominal pressure from carrying a child.
Is it a problem?
The gap typically narrows after childbirth on its own, but sometimes there is still a big enough gap to cause some level of concern. In some cases Diastasis Recti is purely a cosmetic issue, but in other cases it can have some serious effects. These effects can range from instability to hernias and a weak core. Often Diastasis Recti can also cause back pain and the muscles in your core may become unable to support your pelvic and abdominal regions.
How can you tell if you have it?
There are several symptoms, as well as a self test, that can help you determine if you have Diastasis Recti. Some of the symptoms include things like a “pudgy” stomach, repeatedly being asked if you are pregnant when you are not, back pain, and gastrointestinal issues. The test that you can perform is quite simple and relatively accurate. To test yourself for Diastasis Recti lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Next place your fingers about two inches from your belly button as you raise your head. If you are able to see a ridge sticking out in the middle of your stomach then you most likely have some degree of Diastasis Recti.
What can you do if you do have it?
A big concern is that if you have Diastasis Recti, you can strain it and make your condition worse. Therefore it is important to educate yourself and take action to improve your Diastasis Recti. Although you can, in some cases, get surgery to reconnect the muscles and “close the gap,” most experts agree that this is not necessary. Diastasis Recti is a symptom of excessive intra-abdominal pressure and therefore the therapy should focus on strengthening your core muscles to help your body work the way it should. Your core muscles are not just your abs, they include in the core is a network of deep muscles that work together to ensure that your body functions correctly. One of the muscles that is important when you have Diastasis Recti is the transverse abdominal muscle or the corset postural muscle. This is the muscle that wrap around the torso and is critical in minimizing the effects of Diastasis Recti. When working to strengthen your core, it is important to listen to your body! Pushing harder through exercises is not always better and can actually worsen your Diastasis Recti. The key is to gradually strengthen your core and improve your alignment, while only doing exercises that your body is ready for. Crunches, sit ups, and plank holds are not recommended as these exercises could strain the muscles further. Consider a specific exercise plans that caters to women with Diastasis Recti, like the Mutu Focus System.
What is the Mutu Focus System?
The Mutu Focus System is a holistic, 8-week exercise program designed to help moms restore core and pelvis floor functions, narrow a diastasis recti gap, and flatten the stomach while strengthening your core and adjusting your alignment. There are four phases of exercises that you progress through, as your muscles gradually get stronger. At Phases 3 and 4, the exercises allow you to strengthen your abdominal muscles, but first, you have to find them and train them. Mutu says “There is a difference between training the core, and strengthening it. You can’t do the latter without the former. For many of women, the after-effects of childbirth mean that their brains are not talking to the right muscles. They have to re-learn how to use them.”
The Mutu System stresses the fact that the goal should not be just to close the gap for its own sake. The gap is a sign that you have excessive pressure pushing outwards from within your pelvis and abdomen – the Diastasis is a symptom, it is not the cause. To address only the symptom by binding and sucking in your stomach will NOT address the problem.
For more information about Diastasis and the Mutu Focus System check out: http://mutusystem.com/