Diastasis Recti Exercises

Your abdominal muscles form an elaborate corset which supports your stomach contents and your back. The central set of abdominal muscles are the rectus muscles. These are divided into right and left halves, joined together by a thin, fibrous band of connective tissue. This forms a “seam” which can stretch apart as a result of increased abdominal pressure, a condition called diastasis recti. The degree of diastasis must be evaluated before performing any abdominal exercise.

 

Checking for diastasis recti:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Slowly raise your head and shoulders, reaching toward your knees with outstretched arms.
  • While maintaining this position, place one hand horizontally along the “center seam.” You should feel a softer region between the taut recti muscles on each side.
  • Measure how many fingers fit into the soft gap or bulge.
  • One to two fingers is normal and you may perform curl-ups.
  • If you can fit three or more fingers, you have a diastasis and should perform the modified exercise to strengthen the recti muscles and prevent further separation. Avoid curl-ups and leg-lowering exercises!

 

Postpartum check for diastasis:

  • Perform the same check as above.
  • You should wait until three days after delivery to perform the diastasis check, as the muscles will be too slack for a reliable result. If you had a C-section, you should wait approximately six weeks or until your incision has healed.
  • If you do have diastasis recti, you can perform the same corrective exercise as above.


Corrective exercises for diastasis recti:

  • Lie on your back, knees bent.
  • Cross your hands at your waist and guide your recti muscles toward the midline to stabilize them.
  • Take in a deep breath.
  • As you slowly exhale, perform a pelvic muscle contraction and raise your head off the bed (keep your shoulders on the bed).
  • While you lift, gently pull your underlying muscles together with your hands. If your tummy is too large, wrap a sheet or large towel around your body, and grasp the ends with opposite hands. Apply same pull.
  • Slowly return to the starting position as you breathe in.
  • Try to do 10 in a row, at least three times a day.
  • Do not perform a standard curl-up (raising your shoulders off the bed) until your center seam does not bulge or hollow and you feel only 2 finger widths or less separation between the recti muscles.
  • If at any time (weeks, months, years later) you notice the gap returning, just repeat this exercise to decrease it.

 

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