Today I wanted to talk a little about Diastasis Recti, an extremely common occurrence during pregnancy (have to have it to make room for baby!) that will sometimes stick around for a while postpartum, when we really want it to heal.
Who has it? If you've been pregnant your ab muscles had to separate some to make room for baby. Granted, your entire body had to do some stretching to make room for baby, it is just called a Diastasis Recti in the abdominal muscles. Even men can get a Diastasis though! When there is more pressure in the abdominal muscles than strength to contain it, separation can occur.
What is it? It is a separation in the Linea Alba that is between the Rectus Abdominal muscles - think "six pack" muscles. When we test for it, we are checking to see the distance between the sides of the ab muscles, but we are also checking tension...the tension when we push slightly in, tells us more than the distance apart. If you have 2, 3 or 4 fingers distance (some may be bigger, there is still help for you:)) between the muscles, but you cannot push your fingers in far, and the tension produces a "bounce back", then you are able to securely produce intra abdominal pressure.
When does it happen? Again, during pregnancy. In a perfect world the Diastasis would happily heal in the first 0-12 weeks postpartum, BUT, we know that in many, many instances, that is not the case. If you look at the research there are varying #'s as far as who has it and for how long, on average. In my experience, you can easily have it to some extent throughout the first year, but I have had many clients that are dealing with some degree of DIastasis years after having their last child.
Think of a Diastasis (and even bladder leakage in the pelvic floor) as a symptom of insecure pressure in your body, in a similar way that we think of disc issues in the back. There are a ton of different things that can go on in the back, but if you are essentially lifting something that is too heavy for the supporting muscles in your back, POP, a disc can go, the muscles may have been weak, or dysfunctional.
When you are taxing the system more than what the muscles can do, issues arise. When you are sneezing and leak, the muscles of the pelvic floor are either weak or dysfunctional. If you are doing planks or crunches and dome through the abdomen, the muscles of the abdomen are either weak or dysfunctional.
My hero in all things postpartum, Dr. Sarah Duvall, has a theory that we have a Diastasis immediately after pregnancy so that we are not able to produce a lot of intra abdominal pressure because the pelvic floor is in such a weakened state post delivery, that we should not be putting pressure down on it. I love this theory because it just further exemplifies the innate function for healing within our bodies, already amazing in that fact that we can even make a baby!
How should I heal it? There are many variables that go into healing any area of the body; sleep (so, so important and sadly, so, so elusive for some moms - if you have a friend offering to help out, take her up on it and NAP, please), nutrition, genetics, activity level and water intake (water helps everything, ALL THE TIME -Period-).
I would love to be able to help you sleep, make sure you get good nutrition, drink half your body weight in water ounces daily, oh yeah, and make sure that you were genetically blessed with bountiful collagen for the strength of your connective tissue...but I can't:( What I can help with and what we work on in session is the pressurization and alignment.
**We make sure that the ribs are not flared, thereby creating a healing environment for the ab muscles.
**We make sure that the ribs are stacked over the pelvis so that we are able to provide the best support for our spine, allowing for the muscles to work best together, not putting extra strain on smaller, individual muscles.
**We make sure that we are not jutting our chin forward. WATCH THIS ONE - being on our phone will automatically make us do this, and how often are you scrolling on your phone...? This will begin to translate into other daily activities. When our chin juts forward, our pelvic moves accordingly, whether we want it to or not = no ribs stacked over pelvis.
**We work on diaphragmatic breathing. Not only for the aid in healing that it brings, but to train the muscles of the pelvic floor and abdomen to work together. The more that we can train those to work together when we breathe, they will begin to automatically work together when we are really trying to create intra abdominal pressure i.e. lifting, laughing, sneezing, coughing.
**Then we put it all together and move you through functional moves, to train the body in all directions.
And, we have fun, hopefully...;)
I know, there is a theme in all of my posts, align and pressurize (breathe) but these two small areas of adjustment make such a big difference, I dare say make ALL the difference in helping your muscles work together, the way the are supposed to...