Let’s begin with the anatomy. The abdominal canister is a functional unit made up of components of the abdominal cavity that synergistically work together. It is made up of abdominal and pelvic organs that are housed by several muscles.
Many women get to work exercising and most women start with crunches and abdominal work, that seems like a reasonable place to start, right? If this applies to you, stop those crunches now and keep reading! No more crunches! Hooray! What actually needs to happen is you need an abdominal binder and you need to wear it for a good 6 weeks with all activities and exercise. Think of it like a cast for your broken belly, The binder brings the fascia back together and supports the weakened abdominal wall and allows it to heal in the correct position. Crunches are a repetitive injury to an already injured tissue, as well as putting stress on the discs of the low back and putting you at risk for disc injury. So, step one is stop those crunches and get an abdominal binder. I marvel at old wisdom. Those uncomfortable looking girdles our grandmothers wore, were ahead of their times! They knew a lot more than we gave them credit for! They weren’t going to have that unsightly belly bulge, so they bound it up, and in doing so, likely resolved their diastasis unknowingly.
The exercise progression that is appropriate for improving Diastasis Recti focuses on strengthening the Transversus Abdominus, Multifidus and Pelvic floor musculature together with improving diaphragm function. As well, a skilled physical therapist can examine you to determine other musculoskeletal concerns that are also impacting your recovery. Often a vaginal exam of the pelvic floor may reveal not entirely weak muscles, but also muscles that are in spasm, for which strengthening will cause more harm. There may be tightness in not just Psoas but in other hip and pelvic muscle imbalances. It is important to evaluate your system from head to toe to determine the best individualized exercise program for you. This will optimize your exercise efforts and save you time and money spent on programs that are not right for everyone. We are all very different from our postures and structure to even our daily activities and our emotional state. This requires an individual program to see best results.
Posture and Body Mechanics are a huge factor in improving that mommy belly. When you stand with your head forward, and your shoulders slumped you let that abdominal wall hang and increase pressure on the torn tissue, pressure on the pelvic organs and stress on the spine, ribs and pelvic joints; not to mention the bind that puts the diaphragm in for full function. You can exercise and stretch to your heart’s desire, but if you leave the gym and spend you day in a yucky posture all you have done is for naught. You return to bad habits, force muscles to function in poor positions. Your mom knew something all those times she told you to stand up straight. It is so important for improving your baby belly and protecting your body from injury and pain.
So stop those crunches, bind that belly and find a PT who is knowledgeable about Diastasis and pelvic girdle dysfunction after baby to help you design a program that will be optimal for you. The results are fantastic with consistent follow through and dedication to the program.
–Sarah Dominguez, PT, MSPT, CLT
This blog is here for your help. It is the opinion of a Licensed Physical Therapist. If you experience the symptoms addressed you should seek the help of a medical professional who can diagnose and develop a treatment plan that is individualized for you. If you enjoyed this blog, check out our website at foundationalconcepts.net for more blog entries and to learn more about our specialty PT practice, Foundational Concepts. Follow us on Twitter @SarahpelvicPT or @Jenn_pelvic_PT and like us on Facebook at Foundational Concepts for updates.