Or, Why I Don’t Do Crunches.
What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is a muscle injury that causes a separation in the connective tissue of the Transverse Abdominus. It doesn’t cause muscle pain like other injuries, but it definitely affects the lives of those who have it.
We are told that in order to have a flat stomach we should do more crunches and more sit-ups. If you are 20 years old and have been a ballerina all your life, that will probably work for you. But if you are dealing with this abdominal injury, those kind of exercises will actually make your injury worse. Why, you ask? Well girls, put on your thinking caps. It’s time for an anatomy lesson.
First of all, you need to understand that your core is made up of more muscles than your six-pack. The “six-pack muscles” that practically every workout program emphasizes are the outer core muscles (rectus abdominus). When you do crunches, sit-ups and planks, it is these outer muscles that you are working. That sounds good at first, until you realize that the rectus abdominus are only the surface muscles. Unless you work the other bigger and deeper muscles, you will never have a strong core. And if you are dealing with diastasis recti, you are actually getting weaker — you are making it worse. Crunches put pressure on the separation and actually cause the separation to get wider. So the more your tummy pooches, the more crunches you do. The more crunches you do, the more your tummy pooches. It’s a viscous cycle of poochiness.
So let’s take a look at those other muscles — the Transverse Abdominus. The transverse abdominus muscles are your inner core muscles. They wrap all the way around your abdomen, lower back and pelvic area. They are very, very important to your core strength. Take a look at that above quote from Fit2B again. The transverse abdominus is responsible for flattening your stomach, having a strong back, and even how well your bladder works for you. I’ve heard the transverse abdominus called your “God-Given Girdle”. When it’s strong, it literally sucks all your organs into place. It’s better than Spanx, girls.
Everything is wonderful when these muscles are working properly, but when something goes wrong, it can cause a domino effect. Anything that puts pressure on the transverse abdominus has the potential to cause a separation in the connective tissue and cause them to split apart along the belly button line. Things like weight gain and crunches when you don’t have the core strength for them are enough to cause this separation. But nothing seems to be as effective at separating the connective tissue as having a baby (or 4 great big babies… ahem). If the two sides cannot not “grab” each other again, that separation will not be able to repair itself. Now you have Diastasis Recti (cue the scary music).
Diastasis Recti can cause back problems, strength problems, incontinence problems and even emotional problems when that pooch won’t go away no matter what you do.
How to Check for Diastasis Recti
What To Do If You Have Diastasis Recti
You can find a lot more information about Diastasis Recti by doing a google search, but I would start by looking at Bethany Learn’s site Fit2B. She has made it her mission to teach women about this injury and I have learned so much from her. When you get to her site, there is a blue tab that says “Please select your page”. There is a drop down menu on the right hand side of that blue bar that will take you to all kinds of information.
I wish I had known about diastasis recti before I was pregnant with my kids. Sigh.. But at least I can tell you about it. And I can tell my daughters BEFORE they are dealing with it. That’s progress.
Have a great day!