Recommendations for Diastasis Rectus Abdominus
Diastasis Rectus Abdominus (DRA) is a lengthening along the fascia (called the linea alba) between your rectus abdominus muscles or your “six pack muscles.” DRA typically occurs during pregnancy as the abdomen and uterus extend. However, this can also occur with genetics and/or repetitive straining through the abdomen, therefore men can also experience DRA. The goal of physical therapy for DRA is to reduce the width between muscle bellies or to prevent further separation from occurring while improving your abdominal strength and recruitment.
There are several gentle exercises that your physical therapist will instruct you on to work on properly recruiting the rectus abdominus muscles as well as your transverse abdominus muscles. These exercises will then be progressed over time, based on your improvements. Your physical therapist may also recommend use of a DRA splint and/or use of taping techniques to help with manual approximation of the muscles. You will also be given recommendations for your daily activities, such as proper alignment, lifting techniques, and transitions, such as rolling in and out of bed to protect your abdominals.
In addition to exercises to work on, your physical therapist will also guide you on activities to avoid while the tissue is healing and you are building strength. Activities that you may be asked to avoid include: crunches, sit-ups, certain types of swimming strokes, heavy lifting overhead, planks, leg lowering exercises, cobra stretch, and others that may stretch your abdomen or pull on the linea alba fascia. Most of these activities will be temporarily “put on hold,” but a few activities you may be advised to permanently discontinue, such as sit ups and crunches. But don’t fret! You will you be given alternatives to these exercises that are better for your body and your healing DRA. If you haven’t already been assessed for DRA ask your healthcare provider or PT to assess this to see if treatment may be needed!