To belly band or not to belly band?

That’s the question! And it’s a good one. Those with a diastasis recti (DRA) or a separation of their abdominal muscles are probably asking themselves this question. Let’s start with what is a belly band? A belly band is an abdominal brace that is used to approximate the muscles to decrease their separation. Why is that important? When there is a gap between the abdominal muscles it puts them on a stretch, which makes it difficult for the muscles to contract properly. The abdominal muscles function best when they are running straight from the rib cage to the pubic bone. Not only are the muscles not as strong but this can create a bit of abdominal pooching.
So we want the abdominal muscles to be strong and we know that they are strongest when there is no separation between them. The muscle that we want to strengthen is the transverse abdominus (TrA) because tightening this deep core stabilizer brings the other abdominal muscles together, decreasing their separation. You activate this muscle without thinking when doing normal tasks like walking or moving your arms and legs. Sometimes after child birth, this muscle needs to be retrained, and your therapist may work with you on contracting your TrA before specific movements or exercises. If you have a diastasis recti, talk to your therapist about what exercises are right for you!
Now, back to the belly band. (To be fair, there are many different types of braces for a DRA, like the FitSplint, your physical therapist can help you decide which one is right for you). What the brace does is it brings the muscles closer together so that when you do use your abdominal muscles they are in the right place and will function appropriately. This should help you feel stronger when your need to use your abdomen to perform activities like daily chores or exercise. Using your abdominal muscles in the position that they should be in (with no gap) teaches the muscles to stay in that position.
Not everyone needs a belly band or a FitSplint to correct their DRA. It can depend on the severity of the DRA and relating symptoms. Ask your therapist if some sort of abdominal brace is appropriate for you!

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