Diastasis recti is a medical term which describes a condition in which the abdominal recti muscles are separated. Diastasis recti is mainly observed in pregnant women, although it can occur in any age group and both the genders. The left and right rectus abdominus muscles meet at the midline of the stomach. During pregnancy the growing uterus stretches the muscles and at least 50 percent of woman may have diastasis recti during pregnancy and post-partum, although it is not limited only to pregnancy.
Besides pregnancy it can also occur due to obesity, aging and poor abdominal tone.Because of the muscles getting separated a diffuse bulge may be observed in the midsection of the abdomen. It is not just a cosmetic concern for those having this problem as diastasis recti can also have functional impact in daily activities. Muscles of abdomen provide stability to spine. Hence any weakness or lack of coordination in them can result in cause lower back pain, poor posture, bloating etc. Treatment consists of avoiding heavy lifting during pregnancy, practice proper posture, physiotherapy exercises. In some women the condition gets cured itself after delivery. If the symptoms become worse and interfere in daily activity, surgery may be the last resort of treatment.
Diastasis recti is caused mainly due to pregnancy. At least 50 percent of women may have diastasis recti. The growing size of uterus put internal pressure on the abdominal muscles, mainly on the recti in the midsection of abdomen. Also fluctuation in weight during pregnancy and hormonal changes both are equally responsible. It can also develop as a result of cesarean section. Obesity and aging can also cause diastasis recti. The condition is common in premature babies. In such babies the midline section of the abdominal rectus muscle is seen separated while crying. Spontaneous massive weight loss as in case of bariatric surgery can cause diastasis recti. There may be past history of abdominal surgery. Diastasis recti can also occur in children suffering from trisomy 18. It is a genetic condition characterized by hernia, increase skin folds around neck and absence of testes in scrotum. There are several other deformities.
Symptoms of diastasis recti:
Diastasis recti is easily noticeable because of its bulge in the midsection of the abdomen. The ridge runs from the end of the breastbone to the belly button. It becomes prominent while straining and disappears once the abdominal muscles are relaxed. In infants it is most easily seen when he tries to sit up. During rest the edge of muscle can be felt.
Diastasis recti is prominently observed during pregnancy and post partum period. A pregnant woman may notice a bulge in the abdomen while sitting up in bed or coughing or getting out of tub while bathing. Some women may complain of pain when diastasis recti is very large in size, it is especially in lower back and in pelvic region. Bulging and pain can also occur while doing physical activity and exercise such as crunches, sit ups, yoga postures etc. Many patients also suffer from constipation.
The main reason for diastasis recti is excessive internal pressure in the abdomen. Most women may have diastasis recti during pregnancy. This may cause pain in lower back and lower pelvic region. In such cases a woman may have to wear a binder for support during daytime. Other effective treatment measures include exercise that stabilizes and strengthens core muscles of abdomen. Proper training of posture and educating the person for proper lifting technique are essential part of treatment. During siting the back must be supported with pillow. Proper training while moving out of bed are some of the essential part of treatment. In many cases diastasis recti gets corrected after pregnancy but sometimes physiotherapy exercise is beneficial. It mainly involves pelvic muscle exercise and exercises for strengthening abdominal muscles.