HOW DO YOU GET A DIASTASIS?
No one is immune from having a diastasis.
In fact, all people are born with one! A diastasis generally comes together by the time a child is three, but sometimes the muscles never come together at all. For most people, the recti muscles re-separate sometime after toddlerhood. In childbearing women, this usually happens during pregnancy or delivery. Athletic activity and everyday physical exertion that places force on the abdominal muscles commonly cause this separation in both guys and gals. If you feel like you’re the only one suffering with this mysterious affliction, take comfort in knowing that probably most of the people you encounter every day have a diastasis, as well, whether you can see it or not.
Signs of Diastasis
The most common sign of a diastasis recti is a protruding belly—the proverbial “mummy tummy” or “guy gut.” A protruding belly button, or “outie,” is an absolute telltale indication that a person has a diastasis. This has nothing to do with a person’s weight or fitness level, only that their recti muscles are apart. (Here’s one of my favorite tidbits of little-known diastasis trivia: if it weren’t for diastasis, everyone would have an “innie”—although you can still have an innie and also have a diastasis!)
Many people afflicted by a diastasis have an alien-like lump bulging out of their stomachs, which is especially noticeable when the person lies on the floor and lifts up his or her shoulders. While this kind of bulge can be present in anyone, this situation is especially observable in thin people, who immediately realize this bulge isn’t fat and doesn’t make “sense” with their body type.
In others, the diastasis might be mistaken for a chubby belly, but much to the person’s chagrin, it doesn’t go away with diet or general exercise. The most likely cause of the bulge in either of the cases above is the internal organs pressing through the space between the recti muscles. So take heart: your big belly might not be fat— your organs might be literally sticking out! Needless to say, when your organs are displaced forward, you’re ripe for a wide array of gastrointestinal problems. Who could be comfortable when their intestines are crammed into the wrong place?
How To Check Yourself for a Diastasis
It’s not hard to find out for sure if you have a diastasis. You can either check yourself for one, or you can find a licensed provider of the Tupler Technique® in your area who can do it for you.
In this video you'll learn the method for checking to see if you do, in fact, have a diastasis, and how wide and deep it is.
In the weeks when you’re practicing the Tupler Technique,® you can track your progress to see how your diastasis is healing.
The Houdini Example
Ready for another piece of possible diastasis trivia? The illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini died as a result of multiple punches to the abdomen. While he was reclining on a couch in a theater dressing room in Montreal, two McGill University students entered and asked Houdini whether it was true that blows to the stomach didn’t hurt him. He answered that it was indeed true, not expecting to be punched right at that moment. One of the students, however, started hitting him right then and there as Houdini was relaxing, before he had a chance to properly prepare himself. He died several days later of peritonitis, the inflammation of the abdomen lining, and a ruptured appendix.
While there’s no way to know for sure, it’s my opinion that Houdini likely had a diastasis, and that his appendix was exposed in the muscle separation. It’s also probable that part of his intended “preparation” was bringing his recti muscles together and tightening them, thereby shielding his organs.
So, the moral of the story is this: while a diastasis generally isn’t life threatening, if you invite strangers to punch you in the gut—you just never know. Don’t let this happen to you.
Diastasis even with a Six Pack Abs
Battery aside, it’s surprising to some that a person can be physically fit with “six-pack abs” yet still have a diastasis. However, it’s frequently the exercises that people do to get the six-pack abs that gives them the diastasis in the first place. Have you ever noticed that the people with the most “ripped” stomachs usually have a ridge running down the center of their abs? Just look at advertisements for gyms and workout products and you’ll see this again and again.
Many mistakenly consider this ridge a mark of honor or a badge of pride. Well, that ridge or gulley is the diastasis, right there—the place where the muscles have separated. Most bodybuilders don’t even realize that this isn’t a good thing, so the everyday person who goes to the gym certainly doesn’t know it, either.
What Causes Your Diastasis?
One of the biggest culprits for causing a diastasis like this is crunches, which should be avoided always—despite society’s faulty thinking that crunches are good and helpful for a strong core. They’re NOT. On the contrary, the motion of doing crunches widens the separation between the recti muscles, weakening the core. Planks are a no-no, as well. When you do planks and crunches, you are creating intra-abdominal pressure that pushes against the connective tissue, making the separation larger.
So do you need to give up on your six-pack ab dream? Absolutely not! What you want to aspire to is a non-separated six-pack.
What are Unsafe Exercises or Activities When you have a Diastasis?
Sports such as
are also common factors in causing or aggravating a diastasis.
Sports like these that require a twisting motion of the torso have a shearing effect on the recti muscles, often causing them to further separate by torqueing them apart. Until you get your recti muscles firmly back together, stay away from these sports. I know, that’s a drag for some of my clients, but during the time you’re working to heal your separation, you can’t simultaneously aggravate it by putting exerting all this force on it. (And if you play golf or tennis after you’ve healed your diastasis, make sure you wear a splint while you do it.)
Sadly, I’ve seen clients undo months of hard work by playing golf and tennis and forgetting to protect their recti muscles.
What about those of you who haven’t done any sports or exercises that cause an abdominal separation? Don’t feel left out—unfortunately there are many daily movements in everyday life that can also cause a diastasis when done repeatedly.
Any movement that puts intra-abdominal force on the recti muscles can cause them to separate. That includes things as simple as:
-carrying heavy things and
-going to the bathroom. (Okay, going to the bathroom—as in going from the living room to the toilet— won’t give you a diastasis, but having a bowel movement probably will, if you exert force against your ab muscles.)
-Even breathing the wrong way can contribute to a diastasis.
So what do I advocate…that you stop breathing and sneezing and moving your bowels?
Just that you learn to breathe, sneeze, cough, stand up, and have bowel movements correctly. It’s just a matter of awareness and putting your transverse muscle in the correct position.
But wait, there’s more. Any kind of abdominal surgery can put you at risk for a diastasis, since air is necessarily added into the abdomen during surgery. This essentially “blows up” the gut and puts undue pressure on the recti muscles. C-sections and hernia surgery are included in this.
Pregnancy is a prime cause of diastasis, as the expanding belly stretches sideways, making untrained recti muscles disconnect from each other. And similarly, being overweight can have the exact same effect—the girth of a big belly pulls the muscles apart.
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Watch the short video below to know what a diastasis is.