Abdominal separation or Diastasis Recti is a common problem seen by physiotherapists amongst their pregnant and post-natal patients. Up to two in three expectant mothers experience some form of abdominal separation. The condition goes by several names including Diastasis Recti (DR), Diastasis Rectus Abdominus (DRA) and (DRAM).
However, abdominal separation simply means your belly sticks out because the space between your left and the right vertical band of stomach muscles has widened.
To keep expectant mothers active and exercising, it is important that fitness routines are well thought out. This is where a women’s physiotherapists can help with sound exercise advice leading up to childbirth and after.
10 Interesting Facts About Abdominal Separation
- Diastasis naturally occurs during pregnancy with research indicating DRAM’s incidence rate hovers between 70 and 100 percent.
- DRAM is most frequently experienced during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
- DRAM can look very different from patient to patient.
- Women aren’t the only ones who can suffer from DRAM. Some babies can exhibit abdominal separation as well as some men.
- Learning to breathe and mobilize your four core muscles properly during and after birth can help to reduce separation during pregnancy and speeds post-birth recovery.
- Patients can improve their core strength, tummy appearance and posture many years after giving birth, so it’s never too late!
- Corrective exercise, good posture and nutrition can reduce the need to wear a belt or binder.
- The separation does not need to be closed completely to have good function.
- Just 5 percent of women need surgery to correct DRAM
- Some women find it difficult to close their separation while nursing particularly during their first 6 months.
Testing For Abdominal Separation
At the Brisbane Spine Clinic, one way we test for abdominal separation is by asking our patient to lie flat on their back, knees bent and feet roughly in line with their hips
- We place our fingers on the stomach midline
- We then have the patient lift their head and shoulders up while relaxing their abdominal muscles. We then probe gently for a bulge or a gap along the line running through the belly button.
- We should be able to detect the muscles contracting on both sides of our fingers. If we can’t feel these muscles tightening then more fingers may be needed to measure the distance between the abdominal muscle belts.
- To assess the connective tissue’s condition, we check how deep the gap is between the fingers and the spine. The deeper they go, the frailer the connecting tissue is.
If the gap between the bands of abdominal muscles exceeds two fingers in width, we may recommend avoiding outer abdominal exercises until the pelvic floor and core stabilising muscles have been strengthened.
Treating Abdominal Separation
First, have a women’s health physiotherapist conduct a thorough assessment. An ultrasound may be required because it can provide more information on the pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles.
Individually tailored physiotherapy exercises are then prescribed to hone in on improving core stability, abdominal muscle tone and to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.
Abdominal muscle compression garments can also be an option to help manage abdominal separation although they are not always required.
Garments delivering the best outcomes have medical grade compression providing supportive pressure to the abdominal muscles back and pelvis.
Consult Your Physiotherapist
Here at the Brisbane Spine Clinic, we understand the challenges abdominal separation can pose. Book in today to have our women’s health physiotherapist carry out an assessment. By identifying the degree of your abdominal separation, we can recommend a treatment plan designed specifically for you.
*Please note, content within this article is for educational purposes only and treatment and advice mentioned may not be suited for everyone. Please consult a team member at the Brisbane Spine Clinic or your General Practitioner for specific advice.