Updated: Jul 25, 2020
While it’s most commonly known as a problem that pregnant women encounter, diastasis recti – a separation in the abdominal muscles – is actually a fairly common problem that anyone can develop.
“It’s surprising how many young men and women actually have this problem,” said MMT’s Dr. Jeff Sergent. “It is primarily due to poor core training: an overabundance of flexion exercises and not enough true abdominal training.”
Abdominal flexion exercises include sit-ups, planks and curls, all of which are meant to strengthen what we typically think of when we say “abs.” But there are many more muscles, including those on the sides of our core and our back muscles, that are involved in true abdominal training.
Dr. Jeff said that the core is designed to act like a cylinder, providing consistent strength, stability and control. A training or fitness program should incorporate exercise that strengthens the entire core.
He said that patients experiencing diastasis recti, which occurs in the front of the abdominal core, will actually complain of low back or hip pain. A physical exam will uncover the split.
Other related symptoms that can occur are constipation, urine leakage and even difficulty in
breathing or moving normally, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who aren’t physically fit may also find that they’ve developed a “pooch” in the front of the belly. Hernias can also develop, since there is no longer a sleeve of muscle between your internal organs and your skin.
“You can actually feel that the abdominal muscles are not closing up like they should in an adult body,” he said. “It’s not something, though, that most people immediately think can cause back or hip pain, but once you’ve identified it, they can actually press their fingers right into the separation and feel it for themselves.”
Interestingly enough, we all have this abdominal split when we are born and then the abdominal muscles close up as your body develops.
“You can actually see it in babies that are less than three months old,” said Dr. Jeff. “But you shouldn’t see or feel it in an adult body.”
Depending on the severity of the condition, some patients do need to pursue a surgical repair, but Dr. Jeff said that it can often be improved by focusing on training that strengthens the oblique chain of muscles.