Stop Fearing Exercise and Start Connecting with Your Core
Have you recently discovered you have Diastasis Recti and are afraid to exercise for fear of making it worse? Here’s what you need to know!
The core is like a canister with a top, bottom, and sides that wrap around. It isn’t just a group of muscles in the front that help you do a crunch. It’s a pressure system and the pressure has more to do with the stability of your core than we typically have given it credit for.
Having a core that functions well under load because the entire pressure system is integrated and efficient is what we should be after.
Another important reminder is the issues and symptoms involved with Diastasis Recti are as unique as the individual who has them. Therefore the next right step is NOT googling exercises to avoid for Diastasis because Diastasis is not one size fits all.
Your next right step should be calming your fear by working with a physical therapist who can show you your specific path forward through a personalized treatment plan. Whether you have had a Diastasis Recti without ever being pregnant, have recently been diagnosed a few months after child birth, or have one years after having kids, you can and should still exercise and connect with your core.
I have been dealing with back pain and diastasis recti that I never dealt with after having my kids. After my first meeting with Melanie I could already feel ab muscles engaging that I hadn’t been able to in years! I live in NorCal so we have been meeting over the internet, but every meeting we have is informative and I get stronger each time. The gap in my abs is closing and just about gone and my core feels like it’s supporting me now. Before I would get injured so easily because my back muscles were taking the brunt of everything. Working out now feels so much better and my random back pain is no more. I am so grateful for Melanie and her extensive knowledge about not only the body but diet and healthy living in general.
- Georgia R., Online Client
I highly recommend Melanie! After 4 babies I ended up with Diastasis, which caused me a lot of lower back pain and made me look like I was forever 4 months pregnant! Melanie gave me the confidence to continue working out by providing safe ab exercises to strength my core. But she did more than just that — she helped me with overall body movement. Love her whole body approach.
- Yesenia M.
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The Next Right Steps
1. Do Not Fear
The next right step can’t be riddled with fear. You need to be able to confront the condition in order to recover. The other day on Instagram, I saw a big X over several exercises as a list of what to avoid with Diastasis Recti. This kind of talk leads to fear avoidance. Avoiding exercises out of fear never leads to recovery. Working with a PT who can help you alleviate your fears and get you moving toward your goals is the first step in the right direction.
Curious how physical therapy can help your Diastasis?
2. PT Evaluation
There are several Diasistis exercise plans and protocols on the internet. Some may work well, but nothing beats having a personalized evaluation with a qualified physical therapist.
The first session takes into account your fears, story, alignment, mobility, strength, and goals. The best treatment plan is the one that involves a plan where you are empowered and offered hope.
The Connected Core
Everything is connected. A thorough evaluation of your Diastasis Recti should include your visceral system (abdominal organs), pelvic floor timing and connection, one’s ability to breath with the diaphragm, thoracic cage mobility, alignment, functional mobility in certain tasks, pelvic girdle mobility, and strength in the gluteal muscles and deep core.
Even though abdominal separation and core weakness is the reason you seek treatment, it is common to find other areas of the body that may require more focus first. For example, weakness in the pelvic floor, restrictions in the thoracic spine and pelvic girdle, and poor breathing mechanics will continue to affect the core weakness if not integrated into your program.
Some patients, but not all, have symptoms associated with their Diastasis Recti. It is common to have tight hip flexors and neck pain as this is where the body will try to compensate to gain more stability during functional tasks or exercise. Other complaints include hip pain, knee, pain, TMJ dysfunction, back pain and leakage with exercise, sneezing, and coughing. At Remedy PT, you will have a fully integrated plan to help you meet your goals.
How much exercise can you do?
The amount of exercises you can do with your Diastasis Recti is more dependent on one’s function and abdominal control than on the width of the separation. Some people may gain more efficiency in their core when the muscles are used against a greater load. This explains why avoiding core exercises is not the best answer for Diastasis Recti. Others may have quite a bit of weakness to improve upon; either way the plan is to connect with the core, train the core, and load the core as you are able.
Here are some examples:
Michelle had one child who was less than a year old and about a 2-finger width Diastasis. She had strong core muscles but needed to focus on timing of the connection and breathing mechanics. She was able to start training with high level exercises like planks pretty quickly into the beginning of her treatment because her core pressure was efficiently controlled.
Learning to train the body in all positions and movements is extremely important as this makes for a stronger, more connected system.
Jennifer had a 3-finger width Diastasis which didn’t functionally close well when lying down, but she was able to create more appropriate tension in her core during standing and squatting core exercises.
Learning how to connect and what to watch out will help you strengthen your core without injury or fear. When you try core exercises at home and aren’t sure how efficient you are or how balanced the abdominal pressure is, here are signs to watch out for:
- Abdominal bulging
- Pain in neck, back, hips
- Widening or increased depth of the DR
- Arching in your back
- Breath holding
- Pelvic floor pressure
If you have any of these symptoms then don’t push through the exercise. It is best to stop and get a professional to watch you do the exercise and help you find a different way.
I teach my patients this strategy whether they are just beginning to start core exercises again or are a well trained athlete. Some people start by learning to connect their breath to these muscles in a resting position while others train at higher levels of load, impact, and resistance.
This guide gives you the first three steps to begin connecting with your core. It helps you use your breath to connect the roof and floor of the core muscles. Balancing the pressure system by restoring your breathing mechanics leads to a more efficient system than focusing on abdominal strength alone. Also attached are ways you can check your Diastasis and core connection in positions like squats and planks.
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