Diastasis Recti: Definition and What it is
Medically and clinically reviewed by Tamara Grisales, MD and Kandis Daroski, PT, DPT
Diastasis Recti Definition and Meaning
Diastasis recti occurs when there's a gap or stretch between the left and right abdominal muscles, particularly affecting the rectus abdominis muscles. This is a pair of muscles at the center of the abdomen that go from the ribs down to the front of the pelvis (also known as the muscles that make up the “six pack.”)
Diastasis recti is common in pregnancy and the postpartum period. It can create a noticeable bulge or "pooch" in the abdominal area. As your abdominal wall stretches to accommodate your growing uterus and baby, it pulls on the tissue connecting the right and left sides of the abdominal muscles and creates a gap in the middle. While this issue is most common during and after pregnancy, it can affect people of any age or sex, including infants, men, and older women who have weakened abdominal muscles or other conditions, such as an umbilical hernia.
Diastasis Recti Symptoms
The symptoms of diastasis recti can vary, but typically include a visible bulge or ridge along the midline of the abdomen, especially when the abdominal muscles are strained. It can also result in a feeling of weakness or instability in the core area or low back pain due to the lack of support from weakened abdominal muscles. Diastasis recti may make it more difficult to perform routine tasks that require abdominal engagement, like lifting heavy objects.
Diastasis Recti: A Hinge Health Perspective
Going through pregnancy-related body changes isn’t easy, but remember that your body is meant to deal with this. Just as your body adjusts to the demands of a developing baby, it has the capacity to heal from diastasis recti. With the right exercises, care, and time, most cases of diastasis recti will heal.
Diastasis Recti Treatment
Most cases of diastasis recti resolve within a couple of months postpartum. Still, there’s a lot you can do to help minimize the abdominal separation or reduce symptoms. One of the best things you can do is stay active and keep your core muscles strong — before, during, and active pregnancy. Physical therapy, using good body mechanics (remembering to engage your core when lifting and pushing and throughout the course of the day), and diaphragmatic (belly) breathing can also help resolve symptoms.
How Physical Therapy Can Help With Diastasis Recti
Physical therapy is an effective non-surgical approach to managing and improving diastasis recti. A physical therapist (PT) can help develop an exercise plan for your specific needs, as focusing only on core-strengthening moves may not address all of your symptoms. Many people with diastasis recti have other pregnancy and postpartum issues that benefit from pelvic floor, core, hip, and low back exercises. (These issues include incontinence, constipation, pelvic and low back pain, and prolapse). You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have pelvic pain; bladder, bowel, or other pelvic symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, you can get the relief you've been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you.
See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
Sperstad, J. B., Tennfjord, M. K., Hilde, G., Ellström-Engh, M., & Bø, K. (2016). Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(17), 1092–1096. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2016-096065
Fei, H., Liu, Y., Li, M. et al. (2021). The relationship of severity in diastasis recti abdominis and pelvic floor dysfunction: a retrospective cohort study. BMC Women's Health, 21, 68. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-021-01194-8
Guide | Physical Therapy Guide to Diastasis Rectus Abdominis. (2021, August 26). Choose PT. https://www.choosept.com/guide/physical-therapy-guide-diastasis-rectus-abdominis