After researching my symptoms online, and performing a simple at-home test, I diagnosed myself with diastasis recti.
What is diastasis recti?
If you haven’t heard of diastasis recti, you’re not alone.
In fact, this common lingering condition is underdiagnosed by many healthcare providers. The resultant tummy bulge and lack of muscle tone are overlooked or dismissed as fat gain, beer gut, or just excess skin. Though diastasis recti is most commonly found in women who have had one or more children, it can happen in men as well – and is usually caused, and exacerbated, by improper workout and lifting techniques. Professional athletes are more susceptible.
Diastasis recti are commonly explained as a separation of the muscles of the abdomen, specifically the rectus abdominis muscle, creating a gap of 2.7 cm or more between them (roughly the width of two fingers). More accurately though, diastasis recti is understood to be a stretching and thinning of the tissues of the abdomen. It’s considered a muscle injury that, when left unaddressed, many carry on for years. With diastasis recti, the abdominal muscles haven’t tightened to their optimal positions. The symptoms are fairly easy to spot once you know what to look for – but also easy to dismiss.
Without proper attention, exercise adaptations, or workout modification, diastasis recti can linger on for years. Though not considered an urgent care emergency, when the internal organs don't have the full support of the abdominal muscles, men can experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Indicators include; difficulty performing certain movements or exercises, back pain, constipation, and (in rare cases) damage to the area with improper lifting which may even result in a hernia! Visit your local health clinic or ask your physician to help you do a simple test for diastasis recti – you can also do the test at home.
Diastasis Recti and Fitness
It's important for men to be aware of the condition and be ready to change their activities after a diagnosis. Some of the routine fitness moves that trainers regularly promote including exercises like crunches, sit-ups, pushups, press-ups, and front planks – will inadvertently make the abdominal separation worse, not better. Swimming, some yoga poses (like a downward dog), and doing anything on your hands and knees can also aggravate the injury especially athletes must be aware of the fact that sprained ankles, shin splints, tennis elbow etc could lead to something eventually worse. Other activities that prevent muscles from knitting back together properly include lifting, twisting, jackknifing out of bed, and other moves that activate the core muscles in a “bulging” way.
Movements that help reknit the rectus abdominis muscle safely include gentle and careful side-lying exercises, deep chest breathing, and mindful awareness and change of daily tasks. Pushing up on one’s side to get out of a chair or bed slowly will also help prevent more separation and begin healing the injury over time.
Diastasis Recti Resources
Paid courses and programs for those with diastasis recti are available(Fit 2 Be, The Tummy Team, or programs promoting the “Tupler Technique”), but there is also a wealth of free information, tutorials, and videos that explain how to change your daily movements and exercise routine to start your healing journey. To learn more about how diastasis recti affect guys, including how to check yourself at home and adapt your exercise routine and daily activities, start by viewing these free videos:
Remember the following
It’s important to heal the injury before starting a vigorous fitness routine.
Moderate to severe cases of diastasis recti can add extra undue hardship and superfluous back pain. Working out in proper form is already challenging enough: make it easier on your body and don’t waste your efforts, by taking the time to heal your injury and properly knit your abs back together before building up your core.
Healing your diastasis recti will take some conscious choices and mindful changes to your movements and postures, but I can personally attest that I am well on my way to healing my own diastasis recti by adopting only a handful of the recommended movements and techniques. I’m already feeling much improved and well on my way to recovery. In no time at all, I will be back to easily performing all the twisting and lifting moves that are so much a part of my daily life without worry of worsening the injury.