Had a C section – even 20 years ago? Had a Diastasis or ‘split abs’ as some people call it? Or just feel you have never ‘lost the tummy’ after having kids?? Or have you lost weight everywhere but still can’t get rid of the paunchy tummy?
I have women come and see me about all of the above, regularly. So I thought it was time to write a blog about this and explain a few things. Remember, there’s not one answer for everyone as you are all different and may have different symptoms. For example, someone my raise their head off the floor and see their mid-line down their tummy totally domes upwards. Someone else may do the same but their mid-line goes inwards so it is like a trench!
What is a Diastasis Recti (DR)?
Officially a Diastasis Recti (DR) is when you have a gap in your tummy, running down it vertically and it is 3 fingers/cm wide. It is usually widest and softest at the belly button.
You can see there are different types of DR – ranging from the whole length DR to the high and then the low Dr – above and below the belly button.
However, it is not necessarily how wide the gap is – the most important thing is what tension have you got in the mid-line? The mid-line gap is the stretched Linear Alba – it is the connective tissue that the different abdominals are attached to. The Linear Alba has to stretch when pregnant to let the baby grow but sometimes it is over-stretched & thins. The connective tissue either takes a long time to get back tension or are being pulled elsewhere so the mid-line can’t ‘come back’.
What factors affect a diastasis?
This is where I try to teach women about WHY their DR has not closed up much or why they may have lost weight everywhere but the tummy – it is not a weight issue. What I see a lot is that there is a lot of tightness in the body. The 1st things I will do in an assessment is look at:
1. their posture
2. how they move
3. how they breathe
4. how tight they are around their ribcage, their tummy and at the sides and back.
5. I’ll ask what their diet is like and how much protein with fruit / veggies they eat each meal
6. Check their tummy feeling for a DR
I would then check their tummy for how the midline feels and how big the gap is above and below the belly button. You can do it yourself, watch this video:
The reasons I start with the posture is because it’s so important how someone stands and whether they are holding their tummy in all the time or pushing their shoulders unnaturally back. Muscles – all muscles including tummy & pelvic floor need to move in the full range – lengthen and shorten, otherwise it can cause more tightness and then could lead to referred pain elsewhere. If someone is tight in the ribcage it can affect the breathing and prevent movement in the abs and pelvic floor, hence no movement in the deep abs.
Tackle the tightness
This is one of the most important things to look at. I have some wonderful women’s health professionals whom I would refer people to. I can and do some basic releases and can give people ways to do some self myofascia release, but essentially to get rid of the tummy I would start with referring the client to get proper release/massage work.
If someone comes to me with very tight outer tummy muscles then the most important thing is to get the body moving, mobilising and some hands on massage/release. As I keep saying it is no good trying to build strength on tight muscles, you wont get the full range of movement. This is often the case where someone has very obvious, stand out rectus-abdominal muscles, they are tight and sticking out more because of the tightness.
It takes time and if someone really wants to tackle the tummy paunch then they need to accept it will take time and effort and some hands on themself too.
Another problem with a weak midline is that sometimes people can have a hernia. Where the connective tissue has thinned the abdominal organs protrude as the abs are not able to hold them in place. That is why it is important to work the muscles properly. Doing sit ups, crunches or planks will all put more pressure on the midline and not help mend the tissue or help the abs. The deeper abs – the transverse abdominal need to be kicking in to build strength so someone is strengthening from the inside out.
Pelvic floor exercises can help
If those with a diastasis have got sensation and are able to feel a pelvic floor lift then that is one of the ways to kick in with the deep abdominals. Basically, so long as that person takes time to breathe properly, to breathe down into the pelvic floor and then exhale and lift from the pelvic floor so the fascial connection kicks in with the deep tummy muscles, this can help the tummy.
What you can do
- check your own tummy
- get in touch and I can do a 1:1 assessment – as I said above, I will look at the whole picture, posture, movement, nutrition, breathing and tightness. Or I can recommend seeing the right person to get hands on massage of the tummy.
- start massaging your tummy – Touch it! Get the blood to the tummy and start gentle self massage around the sides, hip flexors or C-Section scar if you have one
- look at your posture and think about ‘lifting your heart up’ and getting into neutral spine
- start thinking about your breathing and look at my videos on Diaphragmatic breathing
- Avoid holding your breath when lifting/pushing/pulling & avoid sit ups/crunches & planks
- Accept that if this is something you want to sort out it does not happen over night – you need to be patient and depending on how your tummy is, you may need to go back to very gentle, tiny moves
- Be nice to yourself and get hands on and begin to listen and feel your body – what you can or cant feel internally.
Realistically, you will probably have to pay for massage or personal training – I don’t offer my Diastasis course as a class as everyone is different and sessions need to be personal to each individual’s needs.
I generally say…..
You pay to get your car mended so accept you may have to pay to get yourself mended!
Time to invest in YOU!