Yesterday my Facebook feed was inundated with multiple shares of this NPR article titled, “Flattening The ‘Mummy Tummy’ With 1 Exercise, 10 Minutes A Day.” After all, with a title like that who wouldn’t want to click on the article and and learn what seems to be such a simple fix for diastasis recti. The trouble is that the “Fix” is never this simple.
While I appreciate the awareness this article is bringing to the topic of diastasis recti and recovery of the partpartum core, Diastasis recti is far more complex than any one single exercise for one single muscle. Diastasis recti is not just about the abs, but moreover is about full body alignment and optimal intra-abdominal pressure regulation. One of the things that I talk to my patients about all the time is that I can give them the world’s best abdominal exercise program to perform 10-20 minutes a day, but what they are doing the other 23 hours and 40-50 minutes makes a bigger difference to their diastasis recti.
Core muscle function is so much more than static recruitment of a single abdominal muscle. Your transverse abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm, and deep back muscles form your deep core canister. They all work together to provide anticipatory stability. So few women realize that their breathing pattern is connected to their abdominal wall performance and their pelvic floor muscle function. My colleague, Julie Wiebe PT has a wonderful video about how all these muscles coordinate together on her webpage. Check it out. If we do not consider breathing pattern when rehabbing a diastasis recti, we are missing a big part of the picture. Chronic drawing in of the abdominal wall is not the answer! If we squeeze in the middle all the time, what are we doing to our pelvic floor down below… setting it up for issues down the road.
The research on diastasis recti is emerging and evolving. There is no way to prevent it during pregnancy by doing an exercise. It is a normal part of many women’s pregnancies. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely things that you can do before and during your pregnancy to reduce your risk of a large diastasis recti and improve overall core function and support. However there other factors such as one’s genetics, overall tissue laxity, number and proximity in time of pregnancies, and singleton versus multiple pregnancy to name a few.
What’s a Woman to Do?
While this article is good to raise awareness, it barely scratches the surface of what is really needed to address the postpartum core rehabilitation. My best advice is to seek the care of a women’s health physical therapist to do a full assessment of core support system. At Legacy Physical Therapy, we see women all the time who think they are doing the right thing to rehab their core, but find that despite performing the exercises their symptoms are getting worse. If you cannot get to see a women’s health physical therapist, then please do your research when searching for solutions online. Below is a list of some of my favorite go to sites.
- Julie Wiebe PT
- Mutu System
- Brianna Battles – Everyday Battles
- Jessie Mundell
- Healthy Habits Happy Moms
If you think that you are dealing with a diastasis recti or postpartum core weakness, we can help. Give us a call at 636-225-3649 to chat with one of our women’s health physical therapist to see how we can help. If you are not sure if you have a diastasis recti and want to be checked by a professional, call us to set up a free screening appointment. We are happy to help.