Now we are confident with what a Diastasis Recti is and have hopefully checked ourselves to see if we have one let’s now focus on how you can help the healing process.
As I mentioned before your body will heal itself post natal up until around 12 months, they you need to do some work yourself!
If you google Diastasis Recti exercises pages upon pages of home workouts appear. Claims that you can ‘fix’ your diastasis with five easy exercises, ways to banish the mummy tummy all with pictures of women with washboard stomachs who have clearly never had children or if they have were just extremely lucky in the gene pool.
First I want to look at the things you should be avoiding, to be honest in the twelve months post natal recovery period and some forever!
1. Direct Front Loading exercises – front planks, push ups, V sits, roll downs, burpees (ahhh says everyone!) ab wheel roll outs, crunches or sit ups (sit ups could have a whole blog on the uselessness and potential damage that can inflict!) This is a very direct list, any of my mums who work with me might read this and say oh well Nicki makes me do a front plank or a push up…..yes I do but I supervise you and I modify you when needed. You may or may not know that when you are in any front loaded position I am watching your abs to see how they are coping. Is there any bulging, doming or bread loafing happening. (More on that later) I am also constantly asking for feedback to judge whether your back is taking over the exercise.
2. Getting in and out of bed – did you know there was a correct technique for getting in and out of bed? You should avoid sitting straight up (or laying back down) as you are effectively doing a tummy crunch) Instead you should roll on to your side, drop your legs off the bed if you can and use your arms to push you up.
3. Breathing – this should be number one actually! Holding your breath is a HUGE no no. It puts a massive amount of pressure through your core and straight onto that linea alba. On any type of effort; lifting a toddler, picking up shopping, getting up from a seated position, exercising you should always EXHALE ON THE EFFORT……blow before you go!
4. Posture – good posture will allow your deep core system to work optimally. When sitting down try and make sure your back is supported and you are sitting on your sitting bones not your coccyx. When standing try to make sure your lower back doesn’t arch excessively. Ribs should be stacked over hips.
5. Nutrition – Last but definitely not least! Your meals should be high in protein… collagen is the major component of connective tissues tissue (linea alba!) also include complex carbs and quality fats. Plenty of roughage will help to ensure you don’t get constipated as straining to go to toilet puts immense pressure on your pelvic floor and core muscles. Water is also important! Aim for those eight glasses a day.
So How About The Dos???
The very first thing I will have all my ladies working on is adopting a good 360 degree breathing pattern. As you inhale the air should travel downwards to the pelvic floor. Chest and belly lift evenly, shoulders stay down and there is good rib and back expansion. The pelvic floor should relax. As you exhale the breath should start at the pelvic floor which should contract, belly should flatten slightly. Many women, especially those who are habitual ab clenchers will find they suck their belly in as they inhale and the breath doesn’t get to the deep core muscles.
Pelvic Floor Exercises are next and are led by the breath. Inhale pelvic floor relaxes, exhale and bring back of pelvis towards front and lift the entire pelvic floor. Make sure you don’t hold your breath or clench your glutes (buttocks) or suck your tummy in. Hold until the end of your exhale and then fully relax. Try and do these ten times and aim for twice or even three times a day in different positions. When you are starting out try standing, laying and sitting. As you progress you can add side laying and quadruped position (on all fours)
Posture – It’s one thing to force yourself to stand with good posture, it is another to have the muscles strong or lengthened enough to be able to stay in it. Rounded shoulders for example will require strengthening of the back muscles to keep the shoulders back and lengthening of the chest muscles to allow the shoulders to go back.
Transverse Abdominis – this is your deep deep core muscle that wraps like a corset around your middle. To activate your TVA imagine you are drawing up a zip on a tight pair of jeans and you want to avoid trapping your skin in it. On the exhale from pelvic floor to just below the belly button. make sure you don’t suck in too hard, 30% is ideal, you should still be able to get a full 360 degree breath while activating the TVA.
Pelvic Tilts – Stand up against a wall with your feet away from the wall so that some of your body weight is supported by the wall. You may feel a gap between your lower back and the wall itself. Try titling your pelvis so that you flatten your lower back against the wall in a gentle movement. Try not to use you whole tummy or push too firmly. Hold for about 10 seconds and repeat 8 – 10 times.
So this is a great place to start, eliminate the factors that might be making your diastasis worse and preventing your core from functioning effectively and start working on some active strategies that can start getting those deep core muscles back on track. Of course like any exercise programme these should all be progressive. There is lots you can do at home but nothing quite as effective as working with a trained professional with experience in core restore and diastasis healing (that’s me by the way! wink wink)
I offer workshops, small group classes and my newly updated 1:1 Complete Core Solution programme so there really is something for everyone regardless of your needs or budget.
Please get in touch and I would love to help you make a complete and full recovery.