My son was a little over a year old, and we had just returned home from running errands. As I pulled him out of the car, his foot became caught in the carseat. My body twisted and his body pulled back. Suddenly, pain shot up my back and I cried out. I hobbled into the house and spent the next two weeks on the couch.
Why did my back give out so easily? Because of a condition called Diastasis Recti. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my abdominal muscles were still separated from pregnancy leaving my core weak and my back completely unsupported.
Diastasis recti is a common condition, occurring in 2 out of 3 moms with 2 or more children (but not limited to moms, or even women as men can experience this too). But as common as it is, most people have never heard of it. Doctors rarely check for it, and fitness instructors tend to push moms to get their abs back with endless crunches (which will actually make a diastasis worse).
So what is it exactly? Diastasis recti is a condition where the abdominal muscles and connective tissue stretch and weaken at the midline (bellybutton) from intra-abdominal pressure (usually pregnancy). This weakening can cause back problems, incontinence, pelvic pain, and something referred to as a “mummy tummy” which is just a pooch that never seems to go away.
If you have diastasis, all the crunches in the world will not flatten your stomach and may even put you in more pain and discomfort. The good news is that it’s treatable through the right kind of exercise and postural realignment.
First, let’s check and see if you have a separation.
Here’s how to do it.
To do a self-check, lie on your back with your knees bent. With your fingers pointing down toward your feet, hold two fingers flat on your bellybutton. Press your fingers down as you slowly lift your head (keep your shoulders on the ground). Do you feel a gully between the two muscles? Measure how many fingers wide it is.
If you can fit more than two fingers inside, you should not do crunches or sit ups.
But what should you do? Well, there are multiple philosophies on the best way to heal a diastasis, and I have done my research and interviewed the experts to get to the bottom of it for you. My recommendation is to go with the MuTu System based exercises. You can find out more about it here, and get started with these 5 exercises here.
You’ll be happy to know that I am much stronger these days. My diastasis is closing, my pants are fitting better, and my back hasn’t given out in a long long time. Now I can pick up my son (who is a lanky first-grader now) with no pain at all.
If you have any questions about diastasis, let me know. I hope this information helps you get stronger from the inside out.