26 Feb 2016

Diastasis Recti: Healing with Pilates

Medically known as Rectus Abdominis Diastasis (RAD), this common, post-natal condition is anything but “rad” for the one in three women who experience it.

What is diastasis recti?

Let us introduce you to the rectus abdominis muscles, best known as the “six-pack” muscles of the abdominal wall. These muscles are separated vertically by a piece of fibrous connective tissue called the linea alba.

As your baby and belly grows the linea alba stretches with you, creating a gap between the rectus abdominis muscles.

The extent (width) of this gap depends on your medical history: if you’ve experienced it with a previous pregnancy; body type (petite frames can be more susceptible); whether you’re carrying singleton or multiple babies; your age; muscle tone, and posture.

Once you’ve delivered your baby and your hormone levels return to pre-pregnancy levels, the thinning of the linea alba typically improves. However, in many cases, the tissues are so stretched out from pregnancy that they lose their elasticity and the ability to retract into normal position, kind of like an overstretched rubber band. This creates that “pooch” of skin, aka “mummy tummy”, common with diastasis recti.

How do I know if I have it?

PFI recommends consulting a women’s health physiotherapist to properly assess pelvic and abdominal health post birth, this is particularly important before recommencing exercise. A physiotherapist can advise you on the extent of abdominal separation and devise a rehabilitation plan (which will, most likely, include Pilates!).

If curiosity is getting the better of you, you can self-assess. Simply lie on your back with your knees bent and place a finger just above your belly button. As you lift your head off the floor (chest lift position), note the distance between the two now-activated rectus abdominis muscles. If the gap is around two centimetres or more, you have diastasis recti.

Some women may even see a bulge in between the two muscles which is a small protrusion of abdominal contents.

How can Pilates help to heal diastasis recti?

Pilates is the ideal exercise program for repairing diastasis recti due to the precise nature of the method and focused, gentle conditioning.

PFI is Perth’s specialist post-natal Pilates provider, and our Instructors are not only highly experienced in working with women’s bodies after baby, but many are also Mums themselves and have experienced it first-hand.

In our Mums & Bubs group classes we focus on proper engagement of the transverse abdominus (deep core muscle) and pelvic floor, in small movements. These movements can be progressed as your muscles tone improves and connection heals.

Emphasis on proprioception (physical awareness), breath and mindfulness mean Pilates is also a great way for new Mums to re-connect with and make sense of their “new” body, manage stress, and systematically re-gain strength.

Private, Studio sessions may be a good option in addition to or in place of group classes, depending on your needs. Three to five Studio sessions, working one on one with a specialist Instructor can help map out your pain points, and give you the right tools, awareness, and alignment for optimal recovery. (Skills you can take into your group classes and everyday life!)

The secret to healing DR and the post-natal body, in general, comes down to:

  • Pelvic floor training: at home and in class. Every day. All the time!
  • Deep, focused core work with a specialist, PFI Instructor to strengthen TAs.
  • Time! Healing is a journey experienced differently by everyone. Some take weeks, and others take over a year. Be patient with and kind to your body, after all, it has given you the best gift in the world: a baby!

For more information about pelvic and abdominal health, contact a women’s health physiotherapist.

Interested in Mums and Bubs class? Book early to avoid disappointment as spaces fill fast!

To book a private Studio session, call (08) 9330 8900 today.



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