You’ve probably heard the term “Diastasis Recti” (abdominal separation) in recent years.
You’re also likely to identify this term, which refers to a pathology, as a problem that happens only to women who have gone through pregnancy.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
Many men who train with free weights suffer from this problem.
- 1. What is Diastasis Recti?
- 2. What are the functions of the Rectus Abdominis?
- 3. What are the effects of Diastasis Recti?
- 4. Intra-Abdominal Pressure
- 5. Causes of Diastasis Recti
- 6. How to correct Diastasis Recti?
- 7. How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti?
- 8. How to prevent Diastasis Recti
- 9. Conclusions
- 10. Bibliographic References
- 11. Related Entries
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the rectal muscles from the abdomen; an increase in the distance of the muscles from the rectus of the abdomen.
The rectus abdominis is composed mostly of type I muscle fibres ( tonics) – 65% – and 35% by phasic fibers.
This results in:
- Interruption of the transmission mechanism of facial muscle tension.
- A prevention of intersegmental and intrapelvic support through the fascial tension it generates.
Normal Abdomen vs Abdomen with Diastasis.
What are the functions of the Rectus Abdominis?
The main functions of the abdominal muscles include:
- Core flexing
- Rib descension
- Visceral Protection
Together with the rest of the muscle and connective tissue of the core, it is also formed by the: transverse perineal, obliques, iliopsoas, pelvic floor, lumbar square, diaphragm.:
It also forms the core of the functional kinetic chain.
They therefore act as a functional unit: any problem in any of its parts will directly and/or indirectly affect the operation of the unit.
What are the effects of Diastasis Recti?
The fact that there is a separation of the abdomen rectus, decreasing the tenseness of the linea alba, causes different dysfunctions that directly affect the health of the subject.
There are different types of Diastasis Recti: above the navel, infra-umbilical, complete or around the navel…
This needs to be assessed by the specialist.
Likewise, depending on the degree of separation between rectus and the quality of the muscles, one way or another their recovery and the specific exercise program must be addressed.
This is caused by the visceral mass and the postural tension of the parietal muscles. The average pressure at rest in the lying down position is 10 mmHg.
Pressure During Exertion
It depends on:
- Airway resistance;
- Type of breathing;
- The synergy between the diaphragm, abdomen, pelvic floor, and the type of exertion..
That’s to say, before any increase of Intra-abdominal Pressure, there is a connection between all the deep musculature.
Causes of Diastasis Recti
Consequently, we can deduce a lack of motor control
- Loss of function of the pelvic floor muscles.
- An incorrect breathing pattern.
- Poor posture.
- Certain hormonal changes that weaken the connective tissue can also cause this separation of rectus from the abdomen.
- Surgery in the abdominal area.
- Abdominal weight and volume (diastasis recti is common in men with the well-known “Beer Belly”).
- High intensity training without good management of pressure control.
Pregnancy and Diastasis Recti
Pregnancy is among the most common causes, as during pregnancy the rectus abdominis muscle expands and stretches.
At the same time, the linea alba decreases in thickness and weakens.
With pregnancy and postpartum, there’s a prevalence of abdominal diastasis of 27% in the second trimester; and it increases to 66% in the third, persisting until almost 12 months after delivery.
Diastasis variation during pregnancy.
How to correct Diastasis Recti?
The whole functional unit we were talking about earlier, must work optimally.
It does not depend exclusively on the anatomical integrity of each of its parts, but on the correct functional coordination between them.
How do you know if you have Diastasis Recti?
First of all, a professional physiotherapist should look into it, and, working together with a trainer, assess the existence of possible dysfunctions in breathing patterns.
Additionally, of course, the clinical history of the subject should be analysed (in the case of a woman, to know how many times she has been pregnant); to evaluate postural hygiene etc too.
Often, if the distance between the rectus is large (> 3 cm), it’ll be perfectly visible.
In most cases, we can try the self-palpation from a supine position (lying on our backs). The specialist places a pair of fingers on the linea alba and lifts the head.
The following things will be looked at:
- Distance between rectus.
- Depth (distortion of the linea alba).
In terms of the distance between rectus:
- A separation less than 2.5 cm (about the width of a finger), is considered normal.
- Over 3.5- 5 cm is considered moderate to severe.
As for the depth, if there’s a sinking of the finger above the nail, it’s considered moderate to severe.
In any case, a complete professional evaluation is recommended.
How to prevent Diastasis Recti
An assessment by both a specialised physiotherapist and a trainer, who can direct the training and exercise program to reinforce any weakness.
In the beginning
- Isolated breathing pattern work.
- Posture control.
- Activation of the transverse both in the basal state and integrated with certain exercises
Improves the integrity of the linea alba by increasing its fascial tension, which translates into better load transfer.
- Searching for transverse activation: analytical, postural, stabilisation and hypopressive work, where appropriate.
- Searching and integrating the work of the rest of the abdominal belt with previous transverse activation: motor control.
For all the above reasons, and in view of many apparently healthy fitness bodies with a very marked abdomen but with rectus separation, it is important to work from the basics:
- Breathing and pressure control;
- Pelvic floor.
- Caufriez M , Domínguez JF, Ballester SE, Schulmann C. Estudio del Tono de Base del tejido músculo-conjuntivo del suelo pélvico en el postparto tras reeducación abdominal clásica. Fisioterapia 2007;29 (3):133-138.
- Lee D, Hodges PW. Behaviour of the Linea Alba During a Curl up task inn Diastasis Retus Abdominins: An Observatory Study, 2016.
- Mens J, Van Dijke GH, Pool-Goudwaraard A, Van der Hulst V, Stam H. Possible Harmful effects of intra- abdominal pressure on the pelvic girdle. J Biomech 2006:39 (4): 627-35.
- We tell you all you need to know about Kegel Exercises to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor. Here at this link.
- Do you know the Abdominal Vacuum technique? Here you’ll find all you need to know.