Today let’s learn a little about diastasis recti (DRA)! Specifically, how to check for it. It is best to get an official diagnosis from a pelvic floor physical therapist but if you are curious about how to check for yourself then here is the easiest way to do so.
Note: it is truly best to check in every position you utilize, and with every exercise you perform just to see what is happening with your abdominal wall.
Lie supine (on your back) with knees extended and abs relaxed. Find your belly button, then raise your head without contracting the abs. Can you feel the margins of your rectus abdominis (the “six pack” abs)? How many fingers wide is it? Palpate above and below the belly button? How far down can you feel it, and how far up toward the ribs can you feel it, if at all?
Next, repeat the same motion but this time begin by firming up your deep abdominals as if you are bracing against someone trying to tickle you. Then lift your head and re-check. Any different? Is it wider, narrower, soft and squishy, firm? Now how far down and up can you feel a separation, if any?
DRA is very common in pregnant and postpartum women but it is not just this population that experiences it. In my clinical experience it has been just as common in men! I am in the habit of checking everyone who mentions low back pain, regardless of gender or childbearing history. It’s an easy check and can help guide rehab and corrective exercise prescriptions.
As always, check with a pelvic floor physical therapist for an official diagnosis. This is meant purely as a fun curiosity check and by no means a diagnosis, but you knew that, right? 😎
Further, more and more literature is coming out revealing that the width of the separation is much less important than the depth of the separation and tension beneath it. Soft and squishy between the two sides indicates weakness of the deep transverse abdominis (TA), even if it is just a single finger width. But some people can have several fingers wide and able to create full tension of the TA when cued, and this is seen as being better than a narrow gap with no tension. Also of note, it is considered an "abnormal separation" when the gap is greater than 2.5 cm or two fingers wide. Why? Who knows. Because if the person cannot create tension in the TAs then 2.5 cm is significant. It all just depends!
*By the way, I had a video that went along with a portion of this post originally posted on my Instagram account, but it requires far more tech knowledge than I possess to learn how to do that here :)
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot