What is diastasis recti?
A diastasis recti is a separation of your outer most abdominal muscles. The job of these muscles (called rectus abdominis), is to support your back and your organs.
Separated muscles are weak muscles, and they cannot do their job of supporting your back and organs. To achieve a strong core, your muscles must be close together, and engaging properly.
When the muscles separate, the connective tissue (linea alba) joining these muscles stretches sideways. This sideways stretching of the connective tissue causes it to become thinner and weaker. The weak saran wrap-like connective tissue is now ineffectively supporting your belly button, back and organs and can lead to back problems, GI issues, and umbilical hernias.
Additionally, abdominal trauma applied to this weak connective tissue, such as a blow to the stomach (the flailing leg of a tantruming toddler, anyone?), can cause the connective tissue to tear away from the abdominal wall, resulting in a ventral hernia that will require surgery to repair. Read here about why you want to try to avoid hernia surgery!
Fortunately, closing your diastasis alleviates these problems AND you will:
flatten and tone your tummy
get a stronger, functional core
strengthen your pelvic floor
make your body circumference measurements smaller
alleviate back pain
protect and support your internal organs
If you are pregnant, it will make pushing in labor much more effective and help ensure that your body recovers quickly, (no matter how you give birth), with less long term damage.
If you are considering abdominal surgery, it will ensure your abdominal muscles are in the best condition possible to undergo surgery, recover quickly & maintain the integrity of any stitches and the success of the surgery long term.
What about diastasis recti and pregnancy?
The majority of women will have a diastasis to some degree after their first pregnancy. Many women make the mistake of waiting until they are done having children before trying to close their diastasis recti and rebuild their core. Each subsequent pregnancy will make the diastasis larger, and a large diastasis can often lead to a c-section.
What is the correlation between diastasis recti and hernias? And if I need hernia surgery, should I fix my diastasis first?
An umbilical hernia is a side effect of a diastasis recti. We have had clients NOT need surgery for their umbilical hernia after doing our program. Strengthening the connective tissue with the Tupler Technique® will bring support to the belly button in the process of closing your diastasis. You will likely notice that your belly button will change from an outie to an innie!
Unless you are having extreme pain from your umbilical hernia it is best to wait with your surgery and do the Tupler Technique® program first to see if it will help. Strengthening your abdominal muscles and learning how to use them in the recovery process will make your recovery faster and also maintain the integrity of the sutures. This is very important as without this preparation many umbilical hernia surgeries come undone.
When surgically repairing the hernia, the diastasis is not repaired at the same time. So if you are separated above and below the umbilical hernia and you repair just the hernia the surgery will come undone easily with intra-abdominal pressure. The Tupler Technique® will teach you how to avoid intra-abdominal pressure after surgery and help prevent the recurrence of the hernia.
To repair hernias, mesh is often used. Mesh is usually absorbable which means it co-mingles with your connective tissue. Many people are allergic to the mesh, and there is no test to perform before the surgery to find out if you are. Once the mesh co-mingles, there is no way to take it out, and if you are allergic to it your body will keep trying to reject it. This rejection process is very painful and there is no solution other than medication. Make sure you are an informed consumer before using mesh.
(The FDA is now investigating the mesh. Here is a link so you can read more about it.)
If surgery is required, follow the Ab Rehab program to speed recovery and maintain the integrity of the sutures.
What is the Tupler Technique®?
The Tupler Technique® is the only evidence-based exercise program, based on clinical research studies, that is proven to effectively treat a diastasis recti.
Developed by Julie Tupler, RN, a pioneer in women's health, this program has helped countless women and men close their diastases and regain their core functionality. Julie and the Tupler Technique® have been featured on on many national television programs such as the Dr. Oz Show, the Today Show, Regis & Kelly as well as in many fitness, medical, and women's health magazines. Most importantly, the Tupler Technique® uses cutting-edge methods to continue to innovate the healing of diastasis recti.
The goal of the Tupler Technique® is to heal the weakened connective tissue that joins your outermost abdominal muscles. As the connective tissue becomes stronger and shallower the muscles gradually come together.
The program progresses over 18 weeks, with the length of the program really varying from client to client. Depending on the degree of the separation and the strength of the connective tissue, many take much less than 18 weeks and in some severe cases, some clients may require more. During the first six weeks, it is recommended not to do any other type of sporting activities or exercises other than low-impact cardio, such as walking, elliptical, or biking. We want to make sure that we are giving the the connective tissue time to heal, while strengthening and learning how to use the transverse abdominal muscle during activities of daily living.
In order to heal the connective tissue, we want to “position” and “protect” the weakened connective tissue of the abdominal wall. Much like wearing a cast to approximate two parts of a broken bone, wearing the Diastasis Rehab Splint® puts the connective tissue in a better position to heal; taking the stretch off the over-stretched tissue and narrowing the diastasis. Protecting the connective tissue involves learning about and avoiding activities that stretch or put intra-abdominal force and pressure on the weakened connective tissue.
It is never too late to close a diastasis on anyone at any time! Closing a diastasis is not an overnight process, but if you follow the Tupler Technique® program as designed, you will see the healing process begin within three weeks!