Closing the Gap: The Ultimate Guide to Diastasis Recti Treatment and Prevention
Are you wondering if you have a diastasis? You should check yourself to see if any of these things apply to you:
- Had any abdominal surgery or abdominal procedure where they filled your belly with air or have any abdominal hernias (umbilical, epigastric and hiatal)
- Have been pregnant. Each pregnancy will make a diastasis worse. That is why you will show faster with each pregnancy. A severe diastasis will always make you look pregnant!
- Have had a beer belly for an extended amount of time.
- Have an outie belly button.
- See a half-football bulge when bringing your shoulders off the floor from a back lying position
- As a child or adult have regularly done any of the following activities or exercises: gymnastics, swimming, tennis, golf, yoga, Pilates and crunches.
- Have back or hip pain, bloating after eating, and poor posture.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti, a condition often ignored by the medical community, is a medical problem that screams for more attention, and that is why Everybelly® should be checked for diastasis recti and treated with the research and evidenced based Tupler Technique® Program.
The word diastasis means separation. The recti muscles are the outermost abdominal muscles. So, it is a separation of the outermost abdominal muscles. The function of these muscles (called rectus abdominis) is to support your back and your organs. So why should you care if your muscles are separated? Because in order to have a strong core your abdominal muscles need to be close together. A strong core is needed to support your upper and lower body as well as your back and organs. Separated muscles cannot provide support. The more separated your muscles, the less support they provide for your body and the more side effects your body will experience. When the muscles separate the connective tissue (linea alba) joining these muscle stretches sideways. This sideways stretching of the connective tissue causes it to become thinner and weaker. So, what happens is this weak saran wrap-like connective tissue is now the support system instead of the muscles if they were together. Weak connective tissue cannot effectively provide support.
Who can get a diastasis?
Pretty much anyone! Any woman (baby or no baby), man or child are at risk for having a diastasis. Many people have diastasis recti and just don’t know it because checking for a diastasis is not part of any medical or fitness evaluation.
Do all pregnant women get a diastasis?
In my experience of checking pregnant women from 1990 to the present, only a small percentage of women do NOT have or get a diastasis during pregnancy. Women that do the Tupler Technique® early in pregnancy that don’t have a diastasis going into their pregnancy can prevent themselves from getting one.
Having a severe diastasis puts a pregnant woman at risk for a C-section. Weak connective tissue cannot support a top-heavy uterus. The top of the uterus then tilts forward. This forward tilt makes the cervix face sideways instead of in a downwards direction. The cervix must be lined up with the vaginal canal in order to provide a path for the baby to come out.
What causes a diastasis?
A diastasis is caused by continuous stretching in both a forward and sideways direction of the connective tissue that joins the outermost muscles. This stretching is caused by pregnancy, weight gain in the abdominal area, abdominal surgery where they fill the abdominal cavity with air, exercises like crunches and Pilates 100, activities where you arch your back and flare your ribs ( gymnastics, yoga, swimming) and crossover activities like tennis and golf.
Effects of diastasis recti on the body
With the muscles not supporting the back and organs the side effects of diastasis recti are back pain, abdominal hernias, poor posture, pelvic floor problems, gastro- intestinal disturbances like constipation and bloating after eating are all effects of a diastasis.
A severe diastasis can put a pregnant woman at risk for a C-section and a patient having abdominal surgery at risk for an incisional hernia.
Checking for a Diastasis
Professionals and the general public usually check their diastasis incorrectly. When checked incorrectly they usually think it is a lot smaller than it really is, which makes them think they can ignore it. An ignored diastasis will continue to get larger by using the abdominals incorrectly with activities of daily living as well improper exercise. When checking your diastasis, you are checking for two things. First, the distance between the separated muscles and second the condition of the connective tissue. It is important to check the diastasis at is largest not its smallest! The higher you lift your head and shoulders off the floor, the closer the muscles come together. That means you only want to lift your head and only just a little with your abdominal muscles relaxed.
To learn how to check for a please watch my video.
Closing Your Diastasis with The Tupler Technique®
My program closes your diastasis by healing the connective tissue. Healing the connective tissue means making it strong enough to hold the muscles in a close together position. Healing connective tissue with the Tupler Technique® is three things. 1) repositioning the stretched out connective tissue and the separated muscles. This means putting the connective tissue in a narrow position and bringing the muscles closer with the Diastasis Rehab Splint® 2) protecting the connective tissue from getting stretched either in a forwards or sideways direction 3) strengthening the transverse muscle and connective tissue with the Tupler Technique® exercises. The research and evidenced based Tupler Technique® Program is 4 steps and progresses over 18 weeks. How long it takes to close your diastasis depends on the severity or your diastasis and your commitment to all 4 steps of the program. However, you will start to see the changes within the first couple of weeks.
Is Wearing an Abdominal Splint Enough to Close a Diastasis?
No. Wearing a Diastasis Rehab Splint® is NOT enough to close your diastasis because the sole purpose of wearing the splint is to reposition the muscles and connective tissue. Wearing a splint does not strengthen the muscles and connective tissue. You must do the exercises to do that. Wearing the splint does not protect the connective tissue from getting stretched. You need to develop transverse muscle awareness with activities of daily living and while working out.
This article I wrote explains more about splinting: Belly Binders…To Bind or Not to Bind
What are the 4-Steps of the Tupler Technique®?
The 4 steps are:
- Tupler Technique® exercises (Elevator, Contracting and optional Head lifts) If you do just the seated exercises you will be just as successful with the program.
- Wearing a Diastasis Rehab Splint® (in Week 4, we double splint, which is wearing a splint and holding another splint (scarf) while doing the exercises)
- Developing transverse awareness with activities of daily living and then I week six while exercising.
- Getting up and down correctly
Umbilical Hernia is a Side Effect of Diastasis Recti
Your umbilical hernia is a side effect of diastasis recti (separation of the outermost abdominal muscles). When your muscles separate the connective tissue (linea alba) joining these muscles stretch sideways and become thinner and weaker. The outermost muscles (called rectus abdominis), need to be close together to do their job of supporting your back and organs. When they are separated it is the weak connective tissue ineffectively supporting your back and organs. That is why you have an outie belly button with an umbilical hernia because the weak connective tissue is not strong enough to support it. When the connective tissue gets stronger the belly button will go from an outie to an innie. Umbilical hernias are common with pregnant and postpartum women and also with people who are overweight. Click here to read more about umbilical hernia and a diastasis.
Should I surgically repair my umbilical hernia?
Not unless you are having extreme pain from your umbilical hernia. If you are not having pain, it is best to wait with your surgery and do the Tupler Technique® program first to see if it will help. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you repair, it with the Tupler Technique® then surgery is not necessary. If the program does not work, you are still ahead of the game as you will be prepared for the surgery with strong connective tissue and abdominal muscles. Strong connective tissue is easier to sew and holds the sutures better. Strengthening your abdominal muscles and learning how to use them in the recovery process will maintain the integrity of the sutures. This is very important as without this preparation many umbilical hernia surgeries come undone. This is called an incisional hernia. An umbilical hernia is a side effect of diastasis recti. When surgically repairing the hernia, the diastasis is not repaired at the same time. So, if you are separated above and below the umbilical hernia and you repair just the hernia in the middle, the surgery will come undone easily with intra-abdominal pressure on the sutures. The Tupler Technique® will teach you how to avoid intra-abdominal pressure after surgery.
What Activities to Avoid if you Have a Diastasis?
Exercises that stretch your connective tissue either in a forward or sideways direction can create a diastasis or make it worse. If you cannot engage your transverse muscle, your abdominal muscles are moving in a forward direction stretching your connective tissue.
It is impossible to totally engage your transverse in a back lying position when your shoulders are off the floor. That is why you should NEVER do crunches or roll ups and roll backs. When your ribs are flared you stretch your connective tissue sideways and it is impossible to totally engage your transverse muscle. Your ribs will flare if you do exercises where you arch your back. There is a lot of back arching in yoga with backbends, and the cobra. A forward crossover movement with your upper body is a shearing movement that stretches your connective tissue sideways. That is why sporting activities like golf and tennis need to initially be avoided and then modified.
If you do any kind of sports, then this is a must read for you: Diastasis Do’s & Don’ts: Diastasis Safe Modifications for Sports
How long Does it Take to Close a Diastasis?
How long it takes to close your diastasis recti depends on the severity of your diastasis and your commitment to all 4 steps of the program. It can take anywhere from 6 weeks to a year or more. However, you will start seeing the healing process starting within the first 3 weeks. So, make sure you take belly photos before starting the program. They will motivate you for sure. Read my article on: How Long Does It Take to Close a Diastasis?
Is it Too Late to Close a Diastasis?
No. It is never too late to close diastasis recti. There is a myth that you can only close your diastasis right after you have had your baby. This is not true. Pregnancy is just one of the causes of a diastasis. Other causes are abdominal surgery, improper abdominal exercises, abdominal trauma from car accident and weight gain in abdominal area. That is why men, women who have not had a baby and children have this condition also.
That is why it does not matter how long ago you had your baby. During pregnancy, you can make your diastasis smaller but probably not close it under after pregnancy.
Anyone can close a diastasis at any time. This is no statute of limitation on closing a diastasis! It is all about healing your connective tissue. Learn more on why it’s not too late to close your diastasis with this article: Is It Too Late To Close My Diastasis? (UPDATED) And What Are the Effects of a Diastasis on the Body? and read about a 57 year old clients’ testimonial here.
For more information on Diastasis Recti please check out my FAQ page or better yet click here to sign up and join my free live webinar where I will answer all your questions about your diastasis.
Hope this was helpful for you
Julie Tupler, RN
To learn more about Diastasis Recti & the Tupler Technique® read this article: DIASTASIS RECTI RESEARCH AND EVIDENCED BASED EXERCISE PROGRAM
To view my programs click this link: Save on Packages
Watch the short video below to know what a diastasis is.