Diastasis Recti (DR) is a separation of the abdominal wall. The linea alba is a thick connective tissue that runs down the midline of the abdomen. This is the area that usually darkens during pregnancy. With constant pressure, the linea alba may thin out and weaken resulting in a separation of the abdominal wall, specifically the rectus abdominis muscle (aka “six-pack muscle”). Due to this thinning and weakening, the protrusion of the abdomen occurs.
What Causes DR?
The linea alba may thin out for multiple reasons but the most common cause is pregnancy and symptoms may worsen with multiple pregnancies. Other factors include weight gain, joint hypermobility, and rib flaring (often seen with gymnasts or swimmers).
What are the symptoms of DR:
One may notice pain (low back and abdominal pain), weakness, abdominal protrusion, pelvic floor weakness/incontinence and functional limitations, including difficulty with getting out of bed, standing and walking.
How to test for DR:
If you are interested in testing to see whether you suffer from DR, lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands perpendicular to midline at the navel. Gently lift your head and notice if there is any separation between the abdominal walls. A finger width is considered normal but anything more than a finger width is a dysfunction.
If these symptoms sound familiar to you, physical therapy may help. Your physical therapist can help rehabilitate the abdominal muscles and address neuromuscular imbalances in the body to decrease pain, improve posture, decrease the diastasis and improve function.
Paula Webster graduated in 1998 in the field of physical therapy from the University of Hartford. She also holds a certification in strength and Conditioning. Since graduation her clinical experience includes general orthopedics, sports medicine, adolescent strength training and adolescent spinal dysfunction. She is the founder of the Six Degrees of Freedom program for children with adolescent spinal deformities.