So many clients attending our specialist postnatal classes have concerns about Diastasis Recti, or abdominal separation. The great news is that, whether you are 6-weeks or 6-years postnatal, any uncomfortable abdominal separation can be improved and often closed entirely.
One of the big questions we are asked is:
‘HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?!!’
And unfortunately, there really is no hard and fast rule for this. Every body is different and every person has a different level of time that they are able to commit to working on their abdominal separation.
We’ve seen clients many years postnatal, who were able to commit to doing exercises every day, make huge changes in just 6 weeks; sometimes closing the gap entirely and sometimes closing the gap some of the way but, equally importantly, changing the quality of the fascia in the middle.
Other previous clients that could only commit to one weekly class, were also super aware of their posture and how to use their breath outside of this class and they made huge changes in a 12-week period.
Although we really can’t estimate a time frame, it’s important to realise that it will take a minimum of 6 weeks before you start to see any changes, and some people never manage to close the gap entirely. There are so many factors that can affect your recovery. From your connective tissue and hypermobility to your body awareness and posture, but after over 10 years working with this condition, and thanks to the amazing work of The Center Method for Diastasis Recti Recovery, we are very confident that huge changes can be made.
Here’s an example of the steps we would recommend throughout your recovery:
Address your nutrition
This really isn’t about weight loss. It’s about using food to help you heal. If your stomach is constantly bloated due to excess sugar, alcohol, wheat, dairy and caffeine, it can be much more difficult to prevent the surrounding muscles from bulging out.
This kind of food and drink will also slow down your healing. But rather than needing to cut ALL of these things out of your diet, it can be helpful to be mindful of how your body responds to different foods. For example, whilst toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner might be more wheat than your body needs, it doesn’t mean you need to go entirely wheat-free.
Consider whether you can cut down to only one cup of coffee in the morning or reduce your evening wine intake.
There are also foods that will actually help your fascia to heal – protein is one of the building blocks to rebuilding tissue. If you can make sure you eat protein at every meal, this will go a long way to improving your body’s response to any exercises you are doing. Eggs, chicken and bone broth are all great foods for this. It is also a good idea to eat salmon and avocado for good fats, and leafy greens, berries, nuts and seeds for high levels of healing vitamins.
Collagen is 70% water so when you are dehydrated your tissues aren’t able to function at their best. Abdominal separation is a fascial issue – this means the separation is deeply affected by the quality of your fascia. The more hydrated your fascia is, the better it will function. So, increasing your water intake is a great idea.
Learn to relax
Abdominal separation is often spoken about as the result of a lack of strength in your abdominal area, and this isn’t necessarily the case. Your muscles can often separate as a result of tension in the back, side or front of the body. It can be really helpful to teach your body to fully relax. Stress will also have an impact on how your fascia functions, so it is really important to find ways to relax and reduce your stress levels.
Release the fascia
As mentioned above, releasing your connective tissue can have a huge impact on your abdominal function. Scars can cause restrictions in the fascia, so if you do have scarring it is a good idea to see a ScarWork therapist to get this restriction released.
Take a look at https://restoretherapy.co.uk/ for more information.
All kinds of body work such as massage, osteopathy and women’s health physiotherapy can be used to help address fascial restrictions that you may be holding onto. We’ll do lots of work to address this in Pilates, but the help of a professional’s hands can really speed up the process. In Pilates, we use gentle mobility work, myofascial release and stretching to encourage your fascia to let go of tension and function more effectively.
Realign your posture
Posture can actually be the root cause of a Diastasis in the first place. When your pelvis or ribcage are out of alignment, the pressure on your abdominals increases and, with it, the chance that the abdominal muscles will not be able to cope with the load. When your bones are well aligned, your muscles and fascia can function more efficiently and this can help a Diastasis to heal.
Work on the breath
We take around 16,000 breaths EVERY SINGLE DAY. So, it makes complete sense that how you breathe really matters! Your breathing patterns are crucial to healing your core function.
It is very important to work on creating a sense of balance through the torso as you breathe. When you inhale into your belly, you stretch and increase the pressure on your abdominal muscles. Instead, your breath should move down into your pelvis, into your abdominals and into the whole of your ribcage so that the pressure created is balanced and not pushing into one area.
Why not try our breathing exercises for Diastasis Recti in this post and video.
Restore the fascia
Finally, we reach the part that everyone associates with Diastasis Recti Recovery – strengthening! By slowly strengthening your muscles from the inside out, you can gradually restore the function of both your fascia and your abdominal muscles. The aim is to get your abdominals working with your breath and create a sense of support for your core. You need to learn how to engage the whole of your abdominal wall rather than gripping and tensing in certain places, this will help your separation to reduce.
Consider Your Movement Patterns
Another important thing to remember, is that it doesn’t matter how much you are ‘doing your exercises’ if you aren’t considering how you use your body for the other 23 hours in the day. Addressing your posture will help here, but you should also consider when you are creating unnecessary pressure on your abdominals throughout the day and aim to lessen this impact on your body.
When you exhale efficiently, you reduce the pressure on your abdominal wall. By learning to exhale when exerting pressure on your core – for example, when picking up your baby – you can help to reduce the pressure you are creating with your day-to-day exertions.
Other small changes that you should aim to put into place are:
When getting in and out of bed – roll onto your side rather than sitting up in one big motion.
When picking up a heavy object like a car seat – avoid loaded rotation, i.e. twisting when you lift.
When holding heavy objects – try to hold them close to your centre of gravity.
When picking something up from the ground – squat instead of bending, inhale as you go down, exhale as you come up.
These daily changes can make as much difference as doing your exercises, so don’t be disheartened if you struggle to fit everything into every day, you can aid your recovery simply by considering the way you move.
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