Treatment of Diastasis Recti with Physical Therapy
Abdominal rectus diastasis occurs often due to pregnancy or expedited weight gain and is a condition wherein the abdominal muscles have an abnormal space between them - think an exaggerated midline between the two columns of a six-pack. This ailment often comes with pain that can extend to the pelvic and lumbar regions and can also cause issues of incontinence and pelvic prolapse.1 Nearly two thirds of women in their third trimester of pregnancy are diagnosed with diastasis recti and more than half of these cases persist post-partum. Some people will heal naturally within the first year after delivery and not everyone experiences symptoms, but those who do, should get into physical therapy as a first line defense.1
If you are currently experiencing abdominal rectus diastasis and are post-partum, it is recommended that you wait eight weeks to begin physical therapy treatment.3 We also request that you are cleared by your doctor to begin working with us on the issue so we can communicate with them as a team to better support you through this process.
The goal is to strengthen the core and postural muscles while closing the space between the abdominal muscles. Physical therapy to treat diastasis recti will focus on strengthening the muscles around the rectus abdominus, neuromuscular re-education, and for some, aerobic activity.2 Special care will also be taken to provide exercises to support postural re-education for pain relief in the pelvic and lumbar pain.1
In addition to exercise, some external tools can be utilized to help treat your diastasis recti. Many patients find supportive elastic waistbands/corsets help stabilize and correct the abdominal musculature.1 These compressive aids can also provide biofeedback during exercises to let you know you’re activating the correct muscles, and help you navigate your treatment regimen with more clarity. Your physical therapist can also use neuromuscular electrical stimulation through use of a TENS unit, which can be utilized to stimulate the large muscle fibers in the abdominal muscles in deeper ways than voluntary exercises alone.3
Call us to discuss your treatment options and schedule an evaluation. We’re always here to support your healing and help you make the best choices for your post-partum body.
Jessen, M. L., Öberg, S., & Rosenberg, J. (2019). Treatment Options for Abdominal Rectus Diastasis. Frontiers in Surgery, 6. doi: 10.3389/fsurg.2019.00065
Nahabedian, M. Y., & Nahabedian, A. G. (2018). Closing the gap for patients with rectus abdominis diastasis. Nursing, 48(1), 49–52. doi: 10.1097/01.nurse.0000527601.09592.14
Kamel, D. M., & Yousif, A. M. (2017). Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation and Strength Recovery of Postnatal Diastasis Recti Abdominis Muscles. Annals of rehabilitation medicine, 41(3), 465–474. https://doi.org/10.5535/arm.2017.41.3.465