You Don’t Need to Close a Diastasis Recti

You Don't Need to Close a Diastasis Recti(Start with What is a Diastasis Recti)

A veil of misleading, overly hyped, or downright bad prescriptions dim decent diastasis recti advice. I once went to a personal trainer whose $125/hr decree was “you must self-massage your midline to break up scar tissue. Then the rectus abdominis will close back together.” Her source material was a massage therapist friend.

This advice was bad. Diastasis recti is not the result of pregnancy induced scar tissue, even if you have had a c-section (which, at that point, I had not).

Still, I diligently massaged—right after walking barefoot on rocks—and doing an odd pantomime exercise against a wall. Don’t ask. This didn’t close the gap. And was not the last piece of bad advice I followed.

What I Wish an Expert Had Told Me

I wish an “expert” had told me the size of your diastasis will change depending on the time of day, how far up you lift your head, what you ate, what exercises you have been doing, whose fingers are measuring, the tilt of your pelvis, and the way the wind is blowing.

This is normal and not a big deal. The size is much less important than function.

However, a large gap probably correlates with decreased function, so I’m not saying you shouldn’t work towards abdominal strength and a smaller gap. Nonetheless, you can restore function even if the gap doesn’t close completely.

My function improved much more quickly than my gap narrowed. Instead of celebrating my successes, I became fixated on why the damned gap was still there. Sigh.

This is what I should have asked myself instead of constantly sticking my fingers into my abdomen.

  1. Do you fall over when standing on one leg? That’s not normal.
  2. Do you have trouble stabilizing your hips when doing a one legged bridge? Also, not great.
  3. Does your abdomen hurt or feel achy throughout the day? It shouldn’t.
  4. Can you squat, lunge, plank, lift, push, pull, etc. without pain or a bulging belly? If you can’t, slowly work on this. Many women can gain enough function to do all these things, even with a lingering gap.
  5. Do you pee yourself and do you know about pelvic organ prolapse? Weak pelvic floor muscles are not necessarily related to your DR, but a lot of women obsess about the size of their ab gaps and overlook other postpartum concerns. You can work on DR and pelvic floor problems simultaneously. If you suspect a pelvic floor disorder, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Knowing this can help temper expectations and adjust the type of exercises you do.

Having a gap without any other symptoms isn’t a big deal. It’s called a FUNCTIONAL DIASTASIS RECTI. According to my physical therapist, this is what I have obtained through exercise and other modifications.[1]

If you don’t have function, work on building that. In the process, the gap may narrow, but the narrowing shouldn’t be the primary goal.

Exceptions

Some women have multiple hernias, complete loss of function, or linea albas that can’t generate any tension. Doing all the exercises and breathing patterns in the world won’t help that. Instead, they are candidates for surgery—a painful and invasive surgery—but one these women are lucky to have as an option.

On the other end are women who can fit a finger into a gap, have no functional problems, yet agonize over their diastasis recti. In this case anatomy isn’t the problem. Perception is. Luckily, body image problems can be helped without surgery.

Exercise can help your belly. Truly. But any program that promises to close the gap is lying. It may close. It may not. A 2014 review of the scientific literature concluded “non-specific exercise may or may not help to prevent or reduce DRAM during the ante- and postnatal periods.”

Now that I’ve dashed your hopes of an easy diastasis recti fix, read How to Measure Function.

Want to know more about diastasis recti? Then check out the 60+ Page Essay “Why Diastasis Recti Experts Disagree.” 

(Pin It)

Pin It

Footnote:

[1] The well known Canadian physical therapist Diane Lee has found sometimes the gap actually INCREASES as function INCREASES. This is because the line alba requires loading and loading means pulling.

10 thoughts on “You Don’t Need to Close a Diastasis Recti

    1. That’s a good question. I don’t see any reason why the exercises would differ. The overall goal is to work the abdominals without working them too hard. However, usually a mom with diastasis recti can point to pregnancy as the predominating cause, which means once the baby is removed, the main internal force pushing against the linea alba is also removed. With guys, the predominating cause varies. Therefore, you’d first have to figure out why you have diastasis recti…ranging from just born that way to overdoing exercise to having a large belly. If the cause is overdoing exercise, you’d have to alter your technique, and if the cause is a large belly, then diet and nutrition would need to be taken into consideration. But, overall, yes, the exercises that help women should also help men.

  1. I am so grateful for this and your other posts about your diastasis recti! Practical, realistic, empowering, informed by relevant experience… I feel more hopeful and focused now about what my next steps should be and less frustrated with my own experience. Thank you!

    1. No, I don’t think you are too late. Most closure will happen in the first weeks after pregnancy, but this doesn’t mean stretched out muscles and fascia can’t learn to work together later (which is different than saying a DR will close, but rather that improvement in function and appearance can still happen).

  2. This article is stupid! For you to say not to close diastastis recti. Stupid! I can see why your the only article telling people not to. Smack in the middle of how to close diastastis recti after pregnancy. You should be a ashamed. Probably never had kids or just a dumb ass who just exists.

  3. Disclaimer: this is all based on my personal experience and advise given to me by my midwives. Thanks for this post. I understand what you are trying to say. It’s not necessarily about the gap, it’s about function! Some women can work and work, but they will never be able to close their gap. I am not an expert, but I work in the medical field, have helped with many deliveries, and thoroughly understand the female anatomy. What you are saying is true. I have two children, both delivered 100% naturally after completely healthy pregnancies including healthy weight gain. Baby #1 was a hefty boy (9 lb, 6 oz) who left me with a three finger diastasis recti on my petite frame. Nobody’s fault… it happens. From what I understand a one finger diastasis recti is considered normal. I started working on exercises that isolated my TVA (transverse abdominis) muscles at 1 day postpartum and continued DAILY until 3 months postpartum per the advise of my midwife. She stressed the importance of the proper rehab of these muscles, reminding me that it will help reduce the risk of more problems (which you mentioned) as I advance in my maternal age. It closed to a one finger gap, then I slowly transitioned back to my normal intensity of workouts. Over the next year, I slowly felt my function and strength of my whole core return to normal, but the one finger diastasis recti remained the same. For a while I was stressed about the darn gap, but I had a core and pelvic floor that I felt was very strong. After my second pregnancy, I had a different midwife who told me to wear a binder for 40 days postpartum to close my 2.5 finger gap. No ma’am, I told her! I agree with my first midwife who told me wearing a binder might close the gap temporarily, but if you don’t strengthen the TVA muscles, your core won’t have the support it needs and the gap could come back. I did the same thing and after one year postpartum, I have a strong core with a one finger gap remaining. EVERYONE has different anatomy. The best thing to do is speak with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns and go with your gut instinct if you feel like something is not right.

    1. That’s so awesome. Yes, completely agree that all anatomy is different and to speak with a healthcare provider while also trying things that work for your specific body. It is amazing how much many women can resume over time with slow, consistent work.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.