Diastasis Recti is a term many women are no where near familiar with pre-pregnancy, yet many experience it during and post-pregnancy. Some that experience it don’t even know they have it, and certainly don’t know how to go about repairing their muscles.

By definition, and according to author and biomechanist Katy Bowman, Diastasis Recti (DR) is the unnatural distance of the right and/or left halves of the rectus abdominis from the midline. The emphasis on “unnatural” is because there is a normal distance between these muscles — at least normal to you — that varies based on the natural width of your linea alba (a fibrous structure that runs down the middle of the body and connects your ribcage to your bones).

We know, it sounds complicated, right? But there’s a decent chance it may happen to you (or maybe that it already did!) so you better you understand the how’s and why’s. Below, Katy gives us a sneak peak into understanding DR.

What causes diastasis recti?

Excessive (too much or too frequent) forces are placed on the linea alba, which could damage this tissue. This includes:

  • A new force placed on the linea alba, which could damage the tissue (like a growing belly during pregnancy or even weight gain)
  • Too much tension in the ab muscles
  • Certain positions
  • A new way of moving (some completely unrelated to exercise)

How does diastasis recti develop?

  • A growing belly (whether through pregnancy or weight gain in the abdomen)
  • Too much tension in the oblique muscles
  • Certain positions (i.e., standing with your hips forward and your chest lifted)
  • Rib thrusting because your shoulders are super-tight
  • More complex tension created by sucking in your stomach, breathing patters, etc.

What can I do to heal?

  • Change the way you stand
  • Exercise to reduce tension in the waist and strengthen other core muscles
  • Move your body more, in general, throughout the day
  • Move your body more dynamically throughout the day (i.e. mix up your movements)

How can I prevent diastasis recti?

Here’s Katy’s top 3 ways to prevent diastasis recti:

  1. Keep your torso strong and supple (remember that STRONG and TIGHT don’t mean the same thing!).
  2. Don’t always opt for “abdominal” exercises, but challenge your core muscles in “whole-body” ways (like using them to assist you across the monkey bars).
  3. Keep your upper body strong and supple so you don’t chronically thrust your ribcage (which can strain the linea alba that attaches to it) to compensate for tight muscles in the chest, arms, and shoulders.

Read more about Diastasis Recti in Katy’s new book Diastasis Recti – The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation.

This post was originally published on January 13, 2016. It has been updated.

Image source.