ARE YOU DOING THESE 6 THINGS THAT MAKE ABDOMINAL SEPARATION WORSE (WITHOUT KNOWING)?
Post natal abdominal separation (also called DRAM – diastasis of the rectus abdominis muscle) is fairly common post birth.
Most often, it’s healed quickly and easily – as long as these 2 things are at play –
1- You know what to do to heal it effectively (the right exercises, plus compression if needed)
2 – You don’t inadvertently do anything to make it worse
This second reason for abdominal separation (particularly prolonged separation that has lead to other issues like leaking and back pain), I see A LOT.
It’s confusing post birth – most women aren’t told what to do – let alone what things to avoid.
Post natal exercise is very different from your typical fitness workout. Our physiology is different.
Here are the top things I see women accidentally do that can increase a gap if you have one -
- Doing a full sit up in order to get up from lying on your back (roll onto your side and then come up instead)
- Lifting a weight heavy enough that forces you to brace through your abdomen. The inner unit of the TrA and pelvic floor should be able to work well and easily when you lift any load. If you need to brace through your rectus abdominis or hold your breath in order to lift, you raise intra abdominal pressure (pushing your belly outwards) and this can increase separation.
- Doing planks before separation has healed properly - for the same reasons as above.
- Doing abdominal exercises that flex the rectus abdominus under load – crunches, bicycles, double/single leg ab raises, V sits – a lot of this is featured in pilates so if you are doing a class be mindful modify each exercise.
- Push ups on toes or burpees (keep the knees under the hips and increase the volume until the tissue has healed).
- Too much stretch or rotation through the torso – so avoid laying back over a ball, stretching up from the floor (upward dog style) or rotating excessively when lying down in order to stretch the upper back – pulling the rectus abdominis muscle taut can exacerbate the separation – a lot of this is featured in yoga, so if you are doing a class be mindful to modify the movements.
Make sure you find a qualified practitioner or program (like The Postpartum Method) to take you through the right training to fully heal your abdominals, so that if you want to, you can do the movements above without causing issues.
Kristy Ahale is an Exercise Scientist, who has worked in the field of rehabilitation and strength training for over 15 years. She has specialised in core exercise related to spinal pathologies, post surgical recovery and pre and post natal physiology.