We see a large number of pregnant ladies and new Mum’s at goPhysio. Physiotherapist, Kim, is specially trained to treat common conditions that occur during the ante and post natal periods. One thing that we’re seeing a lot of at the moment, is ladies suffering with separated tummy muscles, more formally known as ‘Diastasis Recti’.
What is a Diastasis Recti?
A diastasis recti is a separation of the outer layer of your superficial abdominal muscles, which can often occur in pregnancy (although non-pregnant people can get it too). Sometimes it is called an abdominal separation or tummy muscle separation.
The linea alba is a line of connective tissue that normally joins the two halves of your Rectus Abdominis muscles together. It doesn’t have as much stretch as the muscles around it – this means that under increasing pressure (like a growing baby), it can come apart, resulting in a separation of the muscles.
Is it common?
Around two thirds of women will have a diastasis recti after pregnancy. It can also occur in the non-pregnant population – usually due to a significant trauma or change in internal or external abdominal pressure.
Women over the age of 35, have had multiple pregnancies, large babies or multiple births, such as twins/triplets, are all at an increased risk. Shorter women can also be more at risk as they don’t always have as much space in their abdomen to accommodate the growing baby as someone taller!
You may see your tummy muscles ‘dome’ as you try and sit forwards, you may actually feel a gap in your abdominal muscles or see a hollow. All of these can be signs of a separation in your tummy muscles.
Does it cause other problems?
It can do – a weak core can put additional strain on your back muscles and might lead to back pain or stiffness. A large diastasis can also cause your abdominal contents to push forwards as they don’t have the support of the muscles to hold them in place.
Can it be fixed?
Yes! But you need to be very careful in how you address this issue – crunches, sit ups and planks will only make the problem worse. You need to slowly heal the damaged connective tissue of the Linea Alba and not over work or strain the area, as this could cause further separation of the muscles. The weaker the connective tissue and the wider the gap, the longer it is likely to take to heal. In some instances surgery is required to repair there gap, although this is very rare. The key is doing the right things to address the separation and help it heal.
It’s important to see a qualified Physiotherapist who can advise you on the severity of your diastasis and exercises to start improving and strengthening the core muscles.