Diastasis recti, also known as "mommy belly," is a common medical condition in which the tissues of the abdomen, particularly the abdominal muscles, are stretched apart and separate. It occurs most often as a result of pregnancy. This condition does not need to be permanent, as it can be treated.
Don't strain the abdominal wall. Certain exercises or activities can continue to stretch and pull the abdominal tissues apart. This includes activities such as heavy lifting and exercises such as full sit ups. If your diastasis recti is severe (the condition ranges from barely noticeable to severe enough to place fingers in the space created by the tissue separation), then avoid these activities.
Pull the muscles of the abdominal wall back together with exercise. An easy exercise to do is to lie with a towel underneath your lower back. Then lift your head and neck up off the floor just enough so that the abdominal muscles are engaged. As you do this, pull the ends of the towel together across your abdomen to pull the muscles together. The idea is that the muscles are gently strengthened as the towel retrains them back into a more natural position. This is the treatment that is recommended most by physical therapists. It works best if the diastasis recti is not severe and if there is a minimal amount of belly fat.
Physically bring the abdominal tissue back together with surgery. In this treatment, small incisions are made in the abdominal wall. The tissue is pulled together and then stitched into position. Like any surgery, this treatment has the possibility for complications such as infection, but it has the benefit of being able to adjust tissue aside from the muscle, creating a firmer look. This is the treatment of choice for doctors, because they recognize that there is no way to firm up the stretched fascia tissue (fatty tissue that covers the abdominal muscles) aside from surgery.
There is debate about the effectiveness of exercise in diastasis recti treatment. Physical therapists, because of their professional concentration, may be more likely to recommend exercises. Doctors may be more likely to recommend surgery because surgery is normal in their work. It thus is important to get information from both sides so that you can make an informed decision about what treatment may be best for you. Additionally, many insurance companies will not cover surgery because in most cases it is considered cosmetic.
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