Diastasis recti occurs in women during and after pregnancy. It is a condition where the rectus abdominus muscles in the midline of the stomach separate usually because of an increase in the maternal hormone relaxin, which softens the internal structures of the body, combined with the stretching of the abdominal muscles due to an expanding uterus. The condition can cause a range of problems including lower back pain, postural problems, pelvic floor dysfunction, and urinal incontinence. Thankfully, exercise has been shown to help decrease separation and eliminate the condition.
Diastasis recti therapy exercises are targeted to build strength in the transverse abdominus muscle which acts as a deep core stabiliser. When the transverse abdominus is activated, it shortens the rectus abdominus muscles to bring them closer together, and therefore closes the gap over the lineus alba.
Transverse abdominus diastasis recti therapy exercises are used before other abdominal exercises to help minimise the pressure within the abdomen. When the strength of the transverse abdominal muscles has increased the individual may begin other abdominal exercise, however, if the person notices bulging of the tummy in the midline during an exercise they should cease and avoid the exercise.
An exercise physiologist is a specialist in exercise and its effect on the body. It is important leading up to, during, and after pregnancy, to have input from a trained professional as to what exercises can be safely performed. The exercise physiologist will prescribe diastasis recti therapy exercises after assessing an individual for abdominal separation.
3 exercises which can be used to activate the transverse abdominal muscles are:
- Activating the muscles from a side lying position: this is done by laying the individual down on their side, and getting them to feel the abdominal wall in the area just inside the pelvic bone using their fingers. They should then be asked to activate this area by gently pulling inwards. They need to hold this position for at least ten seconds before relaxing the abdominal wall back to normal. The person should be encouraged to breathe normally during the entirety of the exercise.
- Activating the muscles whilst lying flat: start by getting the individual to lie on their back, get them to bend their knees and keep their feet flat. The individual needs to maintain the normal curvature of their lower back during the exercise. They will need to place their fingers just inside their pelvic bones along the lower abdominal wall, as they did in the first exercise. Then they will gently draw in the deep abdominal muscles, activating them for at least ten seconds. They will then let go and relax. Again, it is important the individual remembers to breathe normally for the duration of the exercise.
- Heel slides for an added challenge: the individual assumes the same bent leg position as in the third exercise. Placing their fingers on the lower abdominal muscles just inside the pelvic bone, they should draw in and activate the deep abdominal muscles and extend the right leg. The person should stop when they feel their lower back start to increase its arch. The individual may relax their deep abdominal muscles and then begin again on the opposite side. As the person progresses they can complete this exercise multiple times before relaxing the deep abdominal muscles.
Additional to the transverse abdominal exercises provided, the individual will be encouraged to practice breathing exercises to get the diaphragm working as it normally would. When a woman is pregnant, the diaphragm is forced upward by the uterus and is unable to lower during breathing. To allow the muscles of the core to work, the diaphragm which lies at the top of these muscles needs to function well. Breathing exercises retrain the diaphragm to lower as a person breathes.
At Infused Health our highly experienced Exercise Physiologist will use extensive knowledge of exercise and its effect on the body to help provide pregnancy safe exercises to treat diastasis recti or any concerns you may have. You can make an appointment today by calling 0401 876 623.
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