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WHAT IS DIASTASIS RECTI (DR)?

DR is a common condition that affects many women during the childbearing years. As a fetus grows within the uterus, the uterus expands, which places stress across the structures surrounding it, specifically the muscles. The primary abdominal muscle on the front side of the body is the rectus abdominis. This muscle is divided into a left and right half by a thick band of connective tissue called the linea alba. You may hear people talk about "6-pack abs"; this is referring to the rectus abdominis. As the uterus expands, there is stretching across the rectus abdominis. In some cases, the weakening and stretching of the linea alba connective tissue creates a separation between the right and left sides of the muscle, or diastasis.


DR is usually "painless" but this dysfunction that leads to other problemsand pains. The separation compromises the integrity of the abdominal wall and is linked to low back pain, hip pain and urinary incontinence. It is reported that 32.6% of women have DR at 12 months postpartum.

HOW TO CHECK YOURSELF FOR DIASTASIS RECTI:

  • Lie on your back and place your fingers in the center of your belly just above the belly button.

  • Slowly lift your head until your shoulder blades are off the bed, while feeling how many fingers you can insert between the belly muscles.

  • Put your head back down and place your fingers in the center of your belly just below the belly button.

  • Slowly lift your head until your shoulder blades are off the bed, while feeling how many fingers you can insert between the belly muscles.

  • If you have a separation you will feel your fingers sink into the abdominal cavity. Your fingers will go past the abdominal muscles, which are like a shelf.

  • If there is no separation (no DR) when you hit the linea alba. It will feel like a trampoline.


DR may affect women during or after pregnancy. Typically, DR develops in the second or third trimester. It is during this time that the fetus is growing most rapidly, and can result in the greatest increase in distance between the 2 sides of the muscle.

Symptoms experienced by  woman with Diastasis Recti:

  • 1. A visible and palpable (detected by touch) separation of the rectus abdominis muscle.

  • 2. Feelings of “flabbiness” in the abdominal muscles.

  • 3. Pelvic-floor muscle dysfunction that causes urinary or bowel problems (incontinence, leakage, constipation, etc).

  • 4. Low back, pelvic or hip pain

  • 5. Poor posture

  • 6. Feeling weak through the midsection and the "core"

  • 7. Sexual pain

How Is DR Diagnosed?

At Harmony Physiotherapy, we are Experts in diagnosing and treating postpartum and women health conditions. A Harmony Pelvic health Physiotherapy Expert  will review your medical history and conduct a thorough interview about your condition. This may include specific questions regarding your pregnancy, labor and delivery, type of delivery (C-section or vaginal), presence of pelvic pain, and information related to your physical recovery, including your breastfeeding habits. Your Harmony Physiotherapist will also ask you when your symptoms began, and how they are impacting your daily life.

The primary diagnostic test for DR is to perform a gentle abdominal examination, and note the degree of separation of the abdominal muscle. A Harmony Physiotherapist will also assess additional factors, such as your posture, back, and hip movement (range of motion), muscle strength and pelvic floor function that may be contributing to your issues.

How Can a Harmony Physiotherapist help you?

After assessing your condition, your Harmony Physiotherapist will implement research-based effective techniques to manage your symptoms and improve functional capacity. Your Harmony Physiotherapist will help you with:


1. Postural Training. Improving postural control is one of the most important components of treatment for women who are dealing with DR. Harmony Physiotherapy will help you learn how to stabilize your core, without overuse of the rectus abdominis muscle. This will involve training your other core muscles, such as your transverse abdominis (a deep abdominal muscle), and your pelvic floor muscles. We will show you how to perform daily activities, such as lifting and carrying your baby, while using proper posture.

2. Stretching. When certain muscles become weak and overstretched, other muscles may become overactive and tight. Your physical therapist will help you learn which of your muscles needs to be gently stretched to improve your strength and posture.

3. Bracing. Sometimes taping of the low back and abdominal region can provide soothing external support for women with DR in the early phases of rehabilitation. It can also help teach you the proper position for your midsection, as it provides support and decreases any pain you may be feeling.

4. Education. There are factors that you may not even know about relating to your pain or movement challenges that we can help resolve. We can help you understand the movements or activities that are best for you and what to avoid.

5. Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation: During the assessment, if postnatal pelvic floor muscle dysfunction is identified, your Harmony Expert Physiotherapist will implement treatment techniques to help address this, and other related issues.


Book your appointment with Harmony Physiotherapy Experts today. We work in interprofessional collaboration with your OBGYN, physician, midwife and other healthcare provider to help you return back to the things you love!

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