Separation or Stretching of the abdominal muscles (Diastasis Recti Abdominus)

Diastasis Recti Treatment Methods: What works for me?

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Who would’ve thought that the physical woes related to pregnancy didn’t just end after childbirth? Childbirth is a physically exhausting experience that leaves new mothers at risk of a variety of postnatal injuries. In the last article, we found out more about a common postnatal condition – Diastasis Recti, commonly known as Mummy Tummy. We learnt more about the condition, why it happens and the impact that it has on new mothers. In this article, we have compiled the various available diastasis recti treatment methods to help you understand what your options are. We also share more about whether or not it is necessary to seek diastasis recti treatment. 

Do I have Diastasis Recti?

If you are unsure whether you are suffering from diastasis recti – do read up on the symptoms and try our self examination to get a clearer idea. It is essential to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate before starting on treatment options. If you have already identified that you are suffering from Diastasis Recti, the next step would be to explore treatment methods.

 

diastasis recti

When should I seek diastasis recti treatment?

The urgency to seek diastasis recti treatment would be dependent on the severity of the separation. In some cases where the separation is very serious and stretched out, it is more pressing to seek medical treatment.

Diastasis Recti, in it’s mild form, is nothing more than a tummy bulge. However, in some cases, it can greatly affect one’s quality of life and prevent daily function. If left untreated, it also has the potential to cause future problems. 

If you are experiencing the following symptoms – your condition could be more severe. It is highly recommended to consult with and seek medical advice from a trained professional. 

  • Constipation
  • Low Back Pain
  • Incontinence – being unable to control the bladder and experiencing leakage
  • Hernia – when an organ pushes through the separated hole between the abdominal muscles

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms – do seek medical help. It is encouraged to speak with your former gynaecologist or a doctor that specialises in women’s health to confirm that the diagnosis of your condition is indeed Diastasis Recti before starting treatment. This is to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate (if you are self diagnosed) and that the course of treatment is suitable for your condition.

How severe is my diastasis recti?

We will classify the severity of diastasis recti cases into 3 levels: mild, moderate and severe.

Normal Separation

As mentioned above, some degree of separation is expected post delivery. If you separation is less than 2 fingers width apart – you do not have diastasis recti. This degree of separation in the abdominal muscles is expected and should heal by itself within 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth.

Mild Diastasis Recti

If the separation is 2 to 3 fingers width apart, you have mild diastasis recti. This is the minimum classification for diastasis recti – one should measure a separation of at least 2 fingers width apart in order to be certain that it is indeed diastasis recti

Moderate

If the separation is 3 to 4 fingers width apart, you have moderate diastasis recti. 

Severe Diastasis Recti

If the separation is 4 fingers width apart or more, it is imperative that you seek medical treatment. This degree of separation is severe and could result in complications such as a hernia or damaged pelvic floor functions. This could negatively impact your daily functions and quality of life.

What types of diastasis recti treatment methods are available?

The types of treatment methods available are largely dependent on the severity of your separation. 

Tummy binding

Postpartum wrapping or tummy binding is fairly common during the confinement period of your recovery after childbirth. The main objective is to help provide new mummies with additional core strength and prevent the progression of diastasis recti. Binding can start as soon as 5 days after delivery and you can wear the binder for as long as it is comfortable for you. Binders should be worn for short periods of time in order to prevent reliance on the binder for core strength. Do note that wearing a binder does increase the abdominal pressure and can result in more pelvic floor weakness problems. Do consult with your doctor if you are unsure about binding. 

Core Strengthening Exercises

The objective of these exercises are aimed at strengthening the deep core muscles, such as the transverses abdominus and pelvic floor muscles. Poorly executed or inappropriate core strengthening exercises can cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. This force may cause further abdominal separation cause your condition to worsen. Ensure that you are performing core strengthening exercises that are suitable for diastasis recti treatment.

Here are some simple 5 minute exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist that can be done at home with no equipment. 

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is a great option for those who have moderate to severe diastasis recti. A physiotherapist will be able to further assess your condition and come up with a treatment plan that is specific to your needs and physical state. Apart from prescribing appropriate exercises for your recovery, your physiotherapist will also be able to help you out with other accompanying symptoms such as back pain and incontinence. You will able be able to consult with your physiotherapist and get advice regarding modifying certain movements that require core strength which may worsen diastasis recti.

Real-time ultrasound imaging

Your physiotherapist is able to use ultrasound imaging during your recovery journey as it is a valuable tool in the assessment of abdominal muscles during exercises. Real-time ultrasound imaging is widely accepted amongst physiotherapists as the gold standard in teaching and training the deep muscles of the trunk and lower back. It involves the use of a diagnostic ultrasound machine placed over the deep muscles while the client is asked to contract a specific muscle.

Benefits of real-time ultrasound imaging

  • clients are able to visualize the activation or inactivation
  • provides immediate feedback which will accelerate learning
  • clients will be able to objectively measure their progress
  • increase clients’ motivation and compliance
  • Specific assessment. We are able to assess in functional position (e.g. if getting up from sitting is painful, we can check the stability in that position).

Diastasis Recti Surgery

For severe cases that cannot be corrected by other treatment methods, surgery may be required. If your diastasis recti is interfering with your daily function or your quality of life, you can consider surgery. Diastasis recti surgery would help you to bring the separated abdominal muscles back together and is similar to a tummy tuck procedure. 

Do speak to your doctor to find out more about each of the treatment methods and to find out which is more suitable for you. In our next article, we dive deeper into physiotherapy as a treatment option for diastasis recti.

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