diagram depicting abdominal separation

Abdominal Separation: What is Diastasis Recti?

Whether you’re pregnant or already a mum, you may be wondering what diastasis recti is?  

Also known as abdominal separation, diastasis recti occurs when the connective tissue in between the long abdominal muscles stretch – typically during pregnancy – and cause the abdominal muscles to separate.  

The good news is, it’s quite common during pregnancy and by working with a specialist Women’s Health physiotherapist, like the team at North West Physio, it is possible to retrain your abdominal muscles post-pregnancy and birth.  

In this blog we cover:  

  • Who is more likely to get Diastasis Recti?
  • How do I know if I’ve got abdominal separation
  • Abdominal separation treatment 
  • How to avoid making the condition worse 

If you’d like to book an appointment with one of our Women’s Health physiotherapists, you can contact our Everton Park or Eatons Hill clinics. Online bookings also available.  

What Is Diastasis Recti?  

Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA), commonly known as abdominal separation, is when there is an increased distance between the two sides of the rectus abdominis (the long parallel muscles in your abdomen) due connective tissue stretching.  

Who Is More Likely To Get Diastasis Recti? 

DRA is very common in pregnancy. As the uterus expands it stretches the abdominal wall.  

More than a quarter (27%) of women in the second trimester experience abdominal separation, while two thirds (66%) of women in their third trimester will have the condition.  

To date, studies have made no concrete association between age, pre-pregnancy BMI, pre-pregnancy weight, height, hypermobility, abdominal circumference or weight gain during pregnancy.  

However, one study did find that frequent heavy lifting (>20x/week) while pregnant did significantly increase the risk of abdominal separation.  

How Do I know If I Have Diastasis Recti? 

You may notice some coning or doming of the central part of your abdomen with movement, especially when lifting your upper body, such as getting up from lying.  

There may be an area in the centre of your abdomen which is softer. If the muscles are separated your fingers may sink into the tissue rather than meeting resistance. You may also be able to feel the edge of the muscles when doing this. 

A qualified health professional, like a physiotherapist from North West Physio, can offer a clinical diagnosis and prepare a specialised treatment plan.  

The main concern with DRA is not how big the gap is, but how you use your muscles to stabilise the trunk.  

Those with abdominal separation and poor core muscle control may experience lower back pain and difficulty with some movements or activities. 

Treatment For Diastasis Recti 

Specific safe exercise is important for optimising functional stability of the trunk. 

It is vital to have a specific assessment and exercise prescription from a qualified health professional to determine and address your needs. 

Other treatment may include support garments such as binders, tubi-grip, recovery shorts and shapewear. 

The best window of opportunity for improvement of the separation is in the first 3-6 months after birth. However, with the right professional advice, you can enhance function further down the track. 

What Can Make Diastasis Recti Worse? 

Any activity which increases intra-abdominal pressure may cause tissue strain across the linea alba (the fibrous line in the middle of the abdominal wall).   

Some activities to avoid include heavy lifting and heavy abdominal activity carried out with poor coordination of muscle stabilisation. 

What Do I Do If I Think I Have Abdominal Separation Or Diastasis Recti? 

If you think you may be experiencing abdominal separation, a clinical diagnosis is your first step.  

From there, our physiotherapists are able to put together a customised treatment and exercise plan for you.  

Make an appointment at our Eatons Hill or Everton Park clinics today.  

North West Physiotherapy is your one-stop pain relief and healthy living practice in Brisbane. With four clinics across North Brisbane; Everton ParkKeperra, Eatons Hill and Nundah our aim is to provide holistic healthcare solution to suit your specific lifestyle. 

Our services include Physiotherapy, Sports PhysioHydrotherapyPilates, PodiatryDry NeedlingMassageWomens Health, and Seniors Strength and Balance Classes. Please note that services vary across our clinics. 

Appointments available 6am – 7:30pm Monday to Friday, and 8am – 12:30pm on Saturdays. Book online here or call us on 07 3353 4111.