Understanding Diastasis Recti: Part 2
Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Now that we know a bit more about what DR is and some of the non-pregnancy-related causes after reading Part 1, lets look at how we can start to resolve or prevent DR through our daily movement habits. While the following activities and movements do not necessarily cause harm on their own, it is the accumulation and combination of excessive and non aligned pressure over time that can contribute to DR. Becoming aware of the following points is a non-negotiable component of any core strengthening program.
As always, start by checking in with your posture.
1. Check your alignment
When you are standing, make sure your hips are backed up over your heels and feel the difference in your tummy. This will bring the pelvis and ribs back into a plane where the core muscles can respond automatically to gravity and to any loads that you are carrying. Like a baby, or a Dachschund.
Make sure you look more like the image on the Right!
2. Drop your ribs!
Although we have always been taught that "chest out, shoulders back" is good 'posture', a habit of thrusting the ribs and moving the ribcage forward relative to the pelvis will actually increase the pressure inside the abdomen pull the linea alba laterally (out to each side), stretching the midline apart. While it will feel more 'slouchy' at first, aim to be more like the 2nd image below:
(Left) Rib thrusting posture, rib cage is shifted forward relative to the pelvis.
(Right) Relaxing rib cage back so that it directly over the pelvis and restoring neutral spinal curves.
3. Watch the pressure
As mentioned above - while these activities and movements do not necessarily cause harm on their own, it is accumulation of repetitive excessive increase intra-abdominal that it can contribute to DR. This includes 'sucking in' the stomach and straining on the toilet.
Let. It. Go!
Whether it is during a workout, or lifting your kids at home - try to minimize movements that require excessive bracing, breath-holding or straining. Take the weight down a notch if you need to, and EXHALE as you lift.
If you have DR, take particular care to avoid any movements that create 'tenting' or 'peaking' of the linea alba down the middle of the stomach. Common culprits are getting in and out of bed through a sit up movement (try rolling onto your side and using your arms instead), and getting off the couch from a reclined position whilst holding your newborn (again try to allow your arms to help you with this movement).
4. Release the Psoas... and possibly the best 'exercise' ever ;)
Tightness or shortening of the psoas major can lead to rib thrusting, even when you are lying down on your back! If your ribs stick up from your stomach when you lie down with your legs extended, this can indicate a shortened psoas and may be contributing to DR.
Improving your alignment, managing stress, decreasing your total sitting time and dropping your ribs will all help with psoas tension. In the meantime however, whenever you are doing exercises that require you to lie on your back, ensure your ribs are down smooth with your tummy by bolstering the upper shoulders and head. I've used a yoga bolster and a half dome in the picture below, but you can also just use a folded blanket and a rolled towel.
*Please take care or avoid doing this exercise while you are pregnant if you become breathless or feel faint when lying on your back*
This position is in itself an exercise that helps to release tension in the psoas major and also a base position from which to add on other exercises. I often suggest staying in it for up to 20mins at a time or as long as you feel comfortable and over time (eg. a month of regular bolstering), you should find that less bolstering is required to enable smooth ribs.
Ensure you address these whole-body movement patterns to begin restoring your core function and to get the most out of any core strengthening exercise program! For a more comprehensive explanation and exercise program, I do recommend getting a copy of Katy Bowman's book Diastasis Recti or seeking out a practitioner to help guide you on your journey, for example a certified Restorative Exercise Specialist or a Women's Health Physiotherapist.
As always I hope this information was helpful and easy to take in, but if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch via email or social media! We'd love to hear from you.