Do you have a diastasis? I DO! Surprisingly, being in the medical field I had never heard much of this before becoming pregnant. When I was about 20 weeks along I noticed this strange ‘ridge’ forming in the middle of my stomach every time I leaned backwards or got out of bed. Naturally, I freaked out. I did some research and this is what I learned.
“Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle. This muscle covers the front surface of the belly area… Pregnant women may develop the condition because of increased tension on the abdominal wall. The risk is higher if with multiple births or many pregnancies.” (source). “A diastasis recti looks like a ridge, which runs down the middle of the belly area. It stretches from the bottom of the breastbone to the belly button. It increases with muscle straining” (source).
So what to do? First I realized that a lot of what I was doing was all wrong, and had probably made my condition worse, hence why I noticed it so early on in my pregnancy. Being a first time mom I wasn’t showing much at all in my first trimester and therefore decided it would be beneficial to continue an abdominal and core strengthening routine throughout the first trimester. Well, this was a mistake.
There are many exercises that are contraindicated for diastasis recti, including crunches, planks, V sits, and pretty much all your standard ab exercises! Also, I realized that I had an very tight rectus abdominus, that was out of balance with the rest of my core muscles, putting extra strain and pressure on my linea alba (the connective tissue between the two sides of your abdominals), which in turn increased my risk of developing a diastasis.
So first thing I did, I stopped working out my abs. Second thing I did was cry a little, haha kidding, but really I was pretty upset and feeling a little stupid. Lastly, I pulled out my old therapy books and look up what I can do to be proactive about healing this diastasis both before and after this baby is born.
During pregnancy there are a few things you can do in order to prevent this, or in my case prevent it from getting worse. It is important to be aware of how you are moving and how much strain you are putting on your abdominal muscles. For example, the way I would normally get out of bed (simply by sitting up) puts an excessive amount of force on my abs and literally tears them further apart every single time. By using a log rolling technique, where you lie on your side and use your arms and the help of gravity to get up helps to decrease this strain and tension. Also, being aware to engage your transverse abdominus (TA) when doing any lifting or bending also helps protect your abs and distributes the force evenly across your entire core.
What is your TA?
It is the muscle that acts like a corset, supporting your torso and core muscles from the front around to the back. Now, being in my last trimester I am focusing on strengthening my TA and pelvic floor muscles not only to prevent further diastasis but also to aid with labor and delivery. After birth, the same principles still apply. Doing 100 crunches a day will do nothing for your mummy tummy except make it worse! There are many exercises that can hurt a diastasis and cause it to never heal properly, and others that encourage the muscles to heal the way they were before.
Kinesiotaping for Diastasis Recti
The last thing I would like to share with you on this topic is the power of Kinesiotaping. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a fairly new concept that uses fabric elastic tape applied to the skin in order to aid with recovery and the healing process. A more in depth explanation is supplied below, from here
“The Kinesio Taping® Method is a definitive rehabilitative taping technique that is designed to facilitate the body’s natural healing process while providing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion as well as providing extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of manual therapy administered within the clinical setting. Latex-free and wearable for days at a time, Kinesio® Tex Tape is safe for populations ranging from pediatric to geriatric, and successfully treats a variety of orthopedic, neuromuscular, neurological and other medical conditions. The Kinesio® Taping Method is a therapeutic taping technique not only offering your patient the support they are looking for, but also rehabilitating the affected condition as well. By targeting different receptors within the somatosensory system, Kinesio® Tex Tape alleviates pain and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin. This lifting affect forms convolutions in the skin thus increasing interstitial space and allowing for a decrease in inflammation of the affected areas”.
After reviewing various coursewares from my past and reviewing the application and proper use of Kinesiotape I discovered that this could also be used during and after pregnancy! So here I go, trying anything I can to be proactive about healing my diastasis.
This is me in the picture below, I think I’m around 31 or 32 weeks here, and I have been applying the tape for approximately a month leaving it on for 3 days, then taking it off for one, then back on for 3, etc. By placing the tape in this formation using proper technique, it essentially ‘reminds’ my muscles that they are meant to be together and not pull apart, encouraging proper alignment and decreasing tension on the linea alba.
Yes, I look silly, and I get alot of attention in the pool change room! But it’s a small price to pay for something that really works. When I take off the tape I usually check the status of my diastasis, and after using the tape for 2 months it has not gotten any worse! This is shocking to me considered how much larger my stomach has gotten, and I also have not had any pain associated with it. I also feel it serves as a proprioceptive reminder to keep my core in proper alignment and reminds me to engage my other muscles during activities to protect this fragile connective tissue.
I hope you learned something from this article! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions about my own personal experience so far. I am so pleased with the outcome thus far that I have signed up for a hands on course on how to use Kinesiotape for a multitude of different conditions, so look forward to future posts on this subject!
In fitness and good health,