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4 Myths About Diastasis Recti (Abdominal Separation)

Diastasis recti, also known as abdominal separation, is a common concern among people who seek out pelvic floor physical therapy. At ITR Physical Therapy in Bethesda, MD and McLean, VA, we hear a lot of confusion (and often unnecessary concern!) about this frustrating health issue.

To help you feel well-informed, let’s clear up four frequently heard myths about diastasis recti.

Myth: diastasis recti is only a problem for pregnant women

While diastasis recti is extremely common among pregnant and postpartum individuals—affecting at least 60% of expecting women, according to Cleveland Clinic—this condition can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, including men and infants.

Myth: only surgery can fix diastasis recti

In most cases, diastasis recti does not require surgery to heal! Generally, only people with severe diastasis recti (which has been defined as a gap on the front of the stomach as wide as four or five finger-widths) or people with a hernia are candidates for surgery.

Of course, just because diastasis recti rarely requires surgical intervention doesn’t mean that diastasis recti will get better on its own. Estimates suggest that as many as 40% of women will still have abdominal separation six months postpartum! Working with an experienced pelvic floor physical therapist is an excellent strategy to help your abdominal separation heal and maximize your overall core function for improved long-term health.

Myth: diastasis recti is only a cosmetic issue, not a medical one

Diastasis recti can cause a bulge or “pooch” in the stomach, which can be visually unappealing to the person who has it. Unfortunately, abdominal separation is often bothersome for more than just aesthetic reasons.

For example, we also know that diastasis recti is associated with disruptive issues like pelvic pain, low back pain, pain during sex, stress incontinence, constipation, and hernias (when abdominal organs push through the stretched out linea alba). Diastasis recti symptoms can even make it difficult to pick up a child, exercise, and perform simple household tasks.

The bottom line: never feel guilty about wanting to heal your abdominal separation, even if your primary concerns are “just” cosmetic. You deserve to feel good about your body and feel comfortable in your skin!

Myth: ab exercises will help heal diastasis recti

When it comes to healing diastasis recti, the main focus of therapy needs to be on closing the gap between the two rectus abdominal muscles—and not just trying to make the abdominal muscles “stronger.”

In fact, research has shown that conventional abdominal exercises like crunches and planks can actually make your abdominal separation worse!

So, what should you  do instead? Work with an experienced pelvic health PT who can help you understand the degree of your abdominal separation and how it relates to the context of your overall health, posture, and core function. By combining intelligently individualized prescribed exercises along with breathing techniques and manual therapy, our physical therapists can give you the individually tailored support you need to see noticeable and sustainable results.

Are you or a loved one concerned about abdominal separation?

Contact ITR Physical Therapy to book your session today!