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Getting stronger from the inside out

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About Alysa Bajenaru

Alysa is a freelance writer and dietitian who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two kids - unless, of course, it's baseball season; then, they could be anywhere. You can follow her on Twitter and at her blog Inspired RD.

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.

How to check for diastasis [TheArtsofSimple.net]

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.

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Comments

  1. Yes I have it & have since my son was born in 2002. I have to stay on top of working my core for sure. The exercises posted are almost identical to some I do!

  2. I have this too, although I didn’t know the name. After my second baby, my dr. told it was only repairable by surgery, which was not covered by insurance. I was very sad to know my former body was out of reach. Nothing I did made it better. But in September I started swimming again and I have seen a big change. I still have a gap, but it is much less that what it was before. Can’t wait to check out the exercises you posted. Thanks for the links!
    M
    Megan´s latest post: This Moment

    • avatar
      Alysa Bajenaru says:

      That’s great, Megan! Too many doctors go straight to surgery for this condition when exercise can fully heal you. Glad that swimming has helped you so much.

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    Stephanie S says:

    I had this as well. I ended up doing an rehab through Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team and exercises through Fit2be, an online fitness video subscription service. After struggling with chronic back pain for over 2 years and other issues, they’re gone! Plus I lost 2″ off my waist :)

  4. i look forward to trying these exercises. i have a 9 finger separation that i’ve been living with 5 years now after my last baby. so many people don’t understand how that completely impacts so much of your daily life. i hope to learn and try something new. i’m tired of looking 5 months pregnant when i’m not. :( i’ve consulted doctors and personal trainers but no one seems to know what to do or how to help…except crunches.

    • avatar
      Alysa Bajenaru says:

      Oh wow, Lindsey. I hate it when the people who are supposed to be helping you tell you the absolute wrong thing to do. I hope these exercises help.

  5. avatar
    Stephanie S says:

    I had this too. I ended up doing an rehab through The Tummy Team which specializes in DR. Also I joined Fit2be, an online fitness video subscription. All the exercises are tummy safe. After dealing with chronic, severe back pain for over 2 years, among other issues, I’m healed. It’s an amazing feeling :)

  6. I also have this, being in Australia, it is even less heard of than in America with doctors saying the only fix is surgery!!!! I did a course 2 yrs ago based on the Julie Tupler technique and went from a space of an 8 finger, very deep gap to a 2 finger , medium separation. I wish more women were aware that they ARE able to fix this without surgery.

  7. Thanks for your article. Most people don’t know what I’m talking about when I say my ab muscles are separated after having three babies. I’ve been working on my core strength for a year and have seen a big improvement. I’d say my core is still fairly weak compared to the rest of my body, but it’s better than it was a year ago! I highly recommend the techniques mentioned on Lindsay Brin’s Moms Into Fitness blog. The modified abdominal exercises she gives in her videos really helped me without hurting me. http://www.momsintofitness.com/

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