Physical Therapy Treatments For Diastasis Recti

Physical Therapy Treatments For Diastasis Recti | Capitol Physical Therapy Washington DC | Spine Therapist

Pregnancy can be an incredibly joyous time characterized with fulfilling experiences and milestones.

However, it can also be a time of significant challenges, such as morning sickness and lower back pain.

RELATED: Prenatal Physical Therapy Solutions

The last thing you want to be worrying about is unexplained pain or loss of physical strength.

If you’re dealing with discomfort after your pregnancy, Capitol Physical Therapy is here to help, with postpartum physical therapy in Washington DC.

RELATED: What Conditions Can A Postpartum Physical Therapist Help With?

Diastasis recti is a condition that primarily affects people during or immediately following pregnancy, though it can occur at other times as well.

It can be unpleasant in the short term, but with proper treatment the long term outlook is generally very positive.

In this article we’re going to talk about what diastasis recti is, what causes it, and how a physical therapist can help.

What Is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti, also known as diastasis recti abdominis, is a condition in which the rectus abdominis muscles, the ones we often think of as the abs, separate from each other in the center.

RELATED: What Happens When You Pull A Muscle?

These muscles are the outermost abdominal muscles and meet in the middle of your abdomen.

When this separation occurs, your organs are only held together by a thin connective tissue referred to as the linea alba.

If you’ve never given birth vaginally, the linea alba has a certain width considered normal.

A 2009 study by Beer et al. found an average width is up to 15mm near the xiphoid process, up to 22mm at the area 3cm above the navel, and up to 16mm to 2cm below the navel.

Once you have given birth, though, it can stretch further.

Though this process can be uncomfortable, it’s not uncommon, affecting up to sixty percent of people who are pregnant as well as infants and other adults in some cases.

There are a variety of treatments available for diastasis recti, so making a full recovery is often possible.

What Are The Symptoms Of Diastasis Recti?

The most common and characteristic symptom of diastasis recti is a bulge, sometimes called doming or tenting, in the muscles of the lower stomach.

This stomach bulge may become especially pronounced with movements that strain or contract them.

Additionally, you might notice feelings of weakness or flabbiness in the affected stomach muscles.

Diastasis recti can also cause a variety of additional symptoms, including:

However, these symptoms are somewhat less characteristic of the condition as they can result from a variety of other causes.

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

The separation of the rectus abdominis muscles can be caused by a number of different factors.

The most common cause is pregnancy.

As your baby grows, they can put pressure on the muscles and connective tissue in your abdomen and ultimately contribute to the separation of your abdominal muscles.

Pregnancy is far from the only cause, however.

Another common cause is lifting heavy objects without proper physical form.

Improper lifting techniques that put excess strain on your stomach wall can contribute to diastasis recti by overexerting the muscles and tissues that hold the rectus abdominis muscles together.

RELATED: How To Prevent Injuries When Lifting Heavy Objects

Some infants, especially those who are premature, are born with diastasis recti as a result of their connective tissues not being fully formed yet.

In this case the condition often sorts itself out as the infant grows.

Other risk factors for diastasis recti in adults include:

  • Excess fat around your stomach
  • Frequent or rapid changes in weight
  • Poor training and work out techniques
  • Genetic predisposition for the condition

RELATED: How To Relieve Soreness After A Workout

It used to be thought that weight gain during pregnancy, weight of the baby, and maternal age could increase the risk of diastasis recti, but more recent studies have shown no support for this link.

pregnancy is the most common cause of diastasis recti | Capitol Physical Therapy Washington DC | Spine Therapist

How Does A Physical Therapist Diagnose Diastasis Recti?

A Washington DC physical therapy clinic can diagnose diastasis recti by assessing your symptoms and doing a detailed examination.

This examination includes discussion with you about your experiences and a physical examination to feel for separation of the abdominal muscles.

Diastasis recti is a condition that isn’t commonly discussed, which means that some people, especially post pregnancy, don’t realize that their discomfort is abnormal and there is help for it.

Therefore, early prevention with a health care provider is incredibly important if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of diastasis recti.

Physical Therapy Treatments For Diastasis Recti

Physical therapy can be a great treatment option for diastasis recti.

A physical therapist can help you to strengthen core muscles in safe and condition appropriate ways to help you get back to your normal levels of strength and stamina.

There are a number of different tools and strategies that a physical therapist may also be able to direct you towards.

Let’s take a look at a few of them.

1. Posture Training

Postural training, combined with controlled breathing, can help retrain your abdominal muscles to work as a unit.

Postural training exercises may focus on therapy for the pelvic floor, diaphragm, the transverse abdominal muscles, and the muscles of the lower back.

A physical therapist can also help you find ways to do daily tasks in a way that is safer and more comfortable for your muscles as they heal, such as lifting and carrying your baby.

2. Diastasis Recti Exercises

Exercise is an incredibly important factor in your diastasis recti recovery.

You have four layers of abdominal muscles that all need to be properly engaged and utilized to aid in recovery.

A 2019 study by Thabet and Alshehri found that deep core stability is a particularly helpful form of exercise in the recovery of diastasis recti.

A physical therapist can work through exercises with you at a pace that best facilitates recovery without overstraining your muscles.

This is especially important because crunches, sit ups, and planks are all common exercises for core strengthening that can actually worsen symptoms of diastasis recti.

3. Muscle Stimulation

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is a treatment in which electrodes are used to gently activate your muscles.

The rhythmic contractions caused by the EMS pulses can help to strengthen your muscles and aid in diastasis recti recovery.

In combination with other treatments, EMS can help with increasing blood flow, which in turns promotes quick healing.

A 2022 study by Wei et al. found that EMS in combination with strengthening exercises can not only help with healing diastasis recti, but also may increase the thickness of your muscles.

4. Braces

Support garments such as braces, or taping can help to support the muscles in the abdomen as you return to day to day activities.

They can help keep the rectus abdominis in a more normal position during healing and may also help remind you to engage your core muscles carefully and safely.

5. Education

A physical therapist can help you recognize movements that may be harmful so that you can modify or avoid them as needed while you recover.

RELATED: Physical Therapy For Gait Training

They can also help you adjust your day to day activities to best support you while you heal.

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today

Are you feeling overwhelmed with the stressors associated with juggling a new baby along with discomfort and muscle weakness?

If so, the most important thing to know is that you don’t have to manage it alone.

Capitol physical therapy is here to help you get back to feeling your best post pregnancy.

Book your appointment today, and start on your journey to better postpartum health.

Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today to begin your recovery journey.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005


9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772


Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC