Diastasis Recti, Abdominal Separation, Gap in your tummy whatever you want to call it, you might be wondering whether you actually have it or not.
Firstly, let’s be clear on what a diastasis recti or DR is. A DR is when the two halves of the abdominal wall (the rectus abdominus) are not as close together as they used to be. It can also mean that the linea alba which is a strip of fibrous tissue that runs from your pubic bone to your sternum has been stretched and no longer has the integrity or sturdiness it once did.
Still confused? Let’s break it down into two parts. The gap and the squishness (I know that doesn’t sound scientific but it really is the best work to describe it).
There are lots of muscles that make up your abdominals. With regards to a DR we are going to talk about the Rectus Abdominus muscle here. Other muscles play a part but for now we will just concentrate on that 6 pack muscle. The Rectus Abdominus comes in two halves, the left and the right side. Each side is connected in the middle by a strip of fibrous tissue called the linea alba. This is connected our pelvis at pubic bone and travels all the way up to the sternum (xiphoid process).
In pregnancy, the baby gets bigger and bigger and begins to stretch out the linea alba and the rectus abdominus which makes sense as something as got to give to let the baby grow. So it is perfectly natural for a diastasis to happen in pregnancy. In fact, one study showed that 100% of women get a diastasis of some degree during pregnancy.*
What’s brilliant about the human body is that once the baby is born the muscles gradually come back together again and heal. Unfortunately, though in some women this doesn’t happen or it doesn’t happen enough and the two halves of the rectus abdominus aren’t as close together as they used to be. For some people this can be classed as a “gap”.
Technically, a person is said to have a diastasis when the gap is more than 2 fingers wide. So how do you assess for this?
1. Lie down on the floor, with your knees bent and soles of your feet flat on the floor
2. Find your belly button
3. Place your one or two of your fingers on your belly button so that the palm of your hand is facing you. It should be the tips of your fingers at the belly button.
4. Inhale and as you exhale just perform a small sit up. It doesn’t have to be large just enough to engage those rectus abdominus muscles. Often just lifting your head and dhoulder off the floor can achieve this.
5. What did you feel? If you felt the two halves of your rectus abdominus pinch both fingers then this indicates a gap of two fingers. You may have found however that you could feel the [inch with just one finger which is great which means the gap is even smaller. If you couldn’t feel the pinch then try again but using 3 or more fingers and see if you can feel it.
*Patríci a Gonçalves Fernandes, Augusto Gil Brites Andrade. Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain. Manual Therapy. Volume 20, Issue 1, February 2015. 200-205.
6. If you need to use more than two fingers then this is classes as a DR
7. Do this again but 2 inches below the belly button and 2 inches above as there is often a difference in the gap depending on where you measure.
Okay, so for some of you who felt more than two fingers please don’t worry and be rest assured that a DR can be significantly improved but don’t skip to the solution yet and for those of you who had two fingers or less please also keep reading…
Another part of DR that gets missed is the squishiness of the linea alba. And to cheer you up and to explain this squishy phenomena I thought you might enjoy this picture. I know I’m cheeky 😊. I was on a trip to Vegas and stopped short at a poster advertising a strip type show but not for reasons that you think! Honest 😉
Now, take a close look at this guys rectus abdominus. I know the things I get you to do eh? Can you see his six pack? Here you can clearly see the left and the right side. You can also clearly see that they are not close together. It looks like that this guy has a DR of about 2-3 fingers!
Yes ladies, men can get a DR as well as pregnancy is not the only reason a DR can occur but that’s for another story.
What we are noting here is that although there is a gap I can safely assume that the linea alba is not squishy. It will be very firm and taut.
So what’s the point? If the Linea Alba is squishy then this indicates that the other abdominal muscles are not firing properly and creating tension. As guess what it isn’t just the rectus abdominus that connects to the linea alba but the other abdominals such as the Transverse abdominals (TA) do as well. The TA wraps around the body like a corset and is underneath the RA. And if this is not firing correctly then there will be no tension in the Linea Alba. Think of an elastic band. It is all floppy until your pull it and then tension is created.
So, the squishiness is almost if not more important than the gap.
How can you tell if you’re gap is squishy?
Do the same check as above but note how far your fingers can go down into your belly. If they can’t and you feel hardness or tension like the dude above then your linea alba has integrity, it has tension. If you feel like your fingers can go quite deep then there is some squishiness going on that could be improved.
DO YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?
The answer here is “depends”. A lot of women do not like the way a gap looks and they feel they have lost confidence because of it. But remember what I wonderful thing your body has done and if you don’t mind, you have no back pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, doming or other pain then your abdominals are probably working in harmony together and providing your body with core control.
However, if you have the squishiness then it is probably a good idea to see if you can improve upon this as even if you do not have any other ailments it could be a risk factor in developing them later on in life.
In either case if you are unhappy, in pain or both then it is time to give yourself some love and attention and prep your body to be a great environment for healing.
Remember, selfcare is care for the whole family!