Physical Therapy Treatments For Diastasis Recti

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

Pregnancy can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, and welcoming a baby into the world comes with a huge number of joys and challenges.

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.

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.

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

They’re held together by connective tissue called the linea alba that can stretch in some circumstances to allow the muscles to move apart.

In those who have not given birth, 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 3 cm above the navel, and up to 16mm 2cm below the navel.

In those who have given birth, though, it can stretch further.

Though it 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, especially with movements that strain or contract them.

This can also be accompanied by feelings of weakness or flabbiness in the stomach muscles.

Diastasis recti can also cause poor posture, lower back pain, bloating, and constipation, though these symptoms are somewhat less characteristic of the condition as they can result from a variety of 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 it can put pressure on the muscles and connective tissue in your abdomen and separate your abdominal muscles.

Pregnancy is far from the only cause, however.

Lifting with poor form that puts excess strain on the stomach wall can also lead to diastasis recti by overexerting the muscles and tissues that hold the rectus abdominis muscles together.

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 the diastasis in adults include stomach obesity, frequent or rapid changes in weight, poor training technique, or a genetic history of the condition.

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 study has 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 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.

This makes it especially important to see a health care provider if you think you may be experiencing symptoms of diastasis recti.

Physical Therapy Treatments For Diastasis Recti

Physical therapy can be a great option as a treatment 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.

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 may also help you find ways to do daily tasks in a way that is safer and more comfortable for the healing muscles, such as lifting and carrying your baby.

2. Diastasis Recti Exercises

There are four layers of abdominal muscles that all need to be properly engaged and utilized to aid in recovery from 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 plank 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 gently activate the muscles.

The rhythmic contractions caused by the EMS pulses can help to strengthen muscles along with other treatments, as well as increasing blood flow which helps speed healing.

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.

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

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy

Jugging a new baby along with discomfort and muscle weakness may feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to manage it alone.

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

Contact us today to book an appointment and start on your journey to better postpartum health.

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