Don't be Afraid of the Doctor

Treating Postnatal Diastasis Recti With Physiotherapy

As your abdominal muscles stretch in pregnancy to accommodate your growing bump, you may find the muscles of your linea alba actually separate. This is the band of tissue that runs down the middle of your abdomen, and unfortunately it doesn't tend to join back together on its own after you give birth. This condition, known as diastasis recti, can affect any woman who has carried a baby, but those who have had a multiple pregnancy are at an increased risk. It's common to experience pelvic strain, a tummy bulge and lower back pain if you have diastasis recti, and it can take some time to heal your linea alba, but physiotherapy can help your abdominal muscles draw together again.

3 Ways Physiotherapy Can Repair Your Abdominal Muscles

Your physiotherapist will assess the condition of your abdominal muscles by examining your abdomen and asking you to do a few exercises that will show the extent of the gap down your linea alba. They will then recommend a treatment program, which may include the following:

  • Supportive Splinting - This is a type of soft splint that's custom-made for your body and has to be worn at all times. Similar in appearance to a bump band, the splint takes the strain off your abdominal muscles and gently draws them together to allow them to heal. Your physiotherapist will check your progress regularly to ensure the splint is improving your diastasis recti.
  • Kegels - A strong pelvic floor is essential for repairing your abdominal muscles, as the pelvic floor provides support to your abdominal muscles. Trying to repair your linea alba without a strong pelvic floor can actually make your condition worse by aggravating the surrounding muscle tissue. Kegels are targeted exercises for your pelvic floor muscles, which are the muscles you engage to stop urine midstream.  Pelvic floor exercises strengthen your muscles by building up the amount of time you can engage these muscles. Your physiotherapist will formulate a customised Kegel program for you.
  • Progressive Strengthening Exercises - These exercises will strengthen the linea alba muscles and encourage them to join together. Your physiotherapist won't move you onto these exercises until your pelvic floor is stable. Progressive strengthening exercises can be done by anyone, regardless of your fitness level, and don't require any special equipment. One example of progressive strengthening exercises for diastasis recti is advanced leg extensions. Lying on the floor with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle, engage your abdominal muscles and extend one leg out parallel to the floor. Bring the leg back to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.

You should get the go-ahead from your obstetrician before doing any abdominal exercises after giving birth. If you'd like to strengthen the muscles of your linea alba, book an assessment with your physiotherapist.