Have you ever noticed a bulge in the area of your stomach when you do a sit up? I work in the health care field and do abdominal scans on large bellied people quite a bit and I’ve noticed this alien-looking mass protrude from their stomaches a lot of the time. I didn’t really pay much attention to it, until I was 5 or 6 months pregnant with my first baby and my midwife told me that I was experiencing this same thing. She told me to wear a band around my stomach for the remaining of the pregnancy, but didn’t really research further into it. I listened to her advice like a good patient, until I couldn’t handle it any more. The band she recommended to me would get so sweaty underneath the tank top I had between my skin and the band, and made my skin so itchy that I decided to throw it in the closet. It couldn’t really be that big of a deal, right? At least, that’s what I thought until after my pregnancy and I learned more about it. Why didn’t I learn more about it during my pregnancy? I have no idea. I wish that I would have though, because the further my pregnancy progressed and the bigger my belly expanded, the worse it got.
I think the period in my life when I was pregnant was the most I have ever worked out consistently, for the healththy benefit to my growing baby and myself. I bought DVD’s that were pregnancy specific and yet, they instructed me through doing crunches and other ‘no-no’ exercises according to anyone with a diastasis recti. How messed up is that!? Why, if pregnancy has an increased incidence of this abdominal separation caused from weakened connective tissues, wouldn’t they do the research or know to educate pregnant women about how to strengthen their abdominal muscles, something that is very needed when delivering a baby, in a safe way and correctly?
Well, I am not the only one who missed this memo. Many of my mother friends, have also dealt with this abdominal separation. Our society is so concerned about having a flat tummy, yet the majority of the population are making matters worse by doing the common exercises to achieve this goal of washboard abs.
So…why is this a big deal and what do we do about it? The reason we depend on strong abdominal muscles and a strong pelvic floor are to help support your back and your abdominal organs. The spine is such an overlooked, integral part of our health and well-being. Every single nerve that controls every single task throughout our body relies on a healthy spine. If the spine isn’t supported or gets tweaked, it may pinch off a nerve or many nerves and create various health issues throughout the body. For the health of my spine and that of my family, we see this amazing chiropractor. And don’t think this condition is singling out mothers, or pregnant women, like I said before, I have noticed many patients coming into the hospital for abdominal exams, many of them men, who have a very obvious separation. And we wonder why they are so sick! No matter your age or sex, stop doing the exercises that create this problem in the first place, especially if you have a separation. These exercises, think anything that places pressure on you intra-abdominally, include:
- Any daily activity that causes pressure on your stomach (bending over – instead squat, twisting to get something – turn your whole body, carrying a child – make sure your spine isn’t hunching to one side or the other and keep your abs pulled in tight, leaning against the wall or sink – I’m guilty of this when I brush my teeth or wash my hands )
- Crunches- anytime an exercise is making your belly protrude, this is weakening our core- make sure to tighten your core and your pelvic floor
- Hands and knee exercises (like cat-cow yoga pose)
- Any jack-knife motions (like getting out of bed sitting up, instead roll to your side to get up)
- Swimming- I love swimming, yet the shearing action you are constantly doing during this exercise can cause a weakening in the abdominal connective tissues
I’m not saying you can never go swimming again, or quit yoga, the problem is when we are doing these things when we already have a separation (more than 2 fingers separation) or doing these so often that it causes a weakness in our core. Other things that cause this to get worse is belly breathing (exercise to help with healthy breathing), holding our breath, and over eating. These things create more intra-abdominal pressure causing more pressure on the connective tissues that hold the core in tact.
This video (below) is the workout I have noticed help me to heal my diastasis recti separation.
Have you checked yourself for a separation? Have you even heard of it before?