Olympians and Diastasis Recti

The Olympics have had me moving away from my desk and settling with a coffee most afternoons throughout July and August, and I love watching the achievements but also how different body types serve different disciplines. For example I thought all gymnasts were stick thin slightly ‘willowy’ body types, but many of them are strongly built, the female cyclists come in all shapes depending on their sport, be it track or road racing. This compares sprinting needs to endurance needs within the body, and then of course we have all been championing the ‘Mums’ of the Olympics such as Jessica Ennis Hill, who has come back to achieve so much showing that motherhood does not mean you have to give up on any previous life you had.

We are not suggesting all mums can do this, JEH was an exemplary athlete before pregnancy so her body will remember what it has to do postnatally too. However many women who train hard, or carry very large babies can suffer with something call Diastasis recti-Diastasis means separation from the Latin, Recti refers to the rectus abdominis muscle (see illustration below)
Diastasis recti is a common condition of pregnancy and postpartum, in which the right and left halves of Rectus Abdominis muscle (the most superficial muscles in the anterior abdomen, more commonly known as your abs) spread apart at the body’s mid line fascia, the linea alba (connective tissue).

Widening and thinning of the mid line tissue occurs in response to the force of the Uterus pushing against the abdominal wall in conjunction with pregnancy hormones (Relaxin) that soften connective tissue. Diastasis recti can occur anytime in the last half of pregnancy, but is most commonly seen after pregnancy when the abdominal wall is lax with the thinner mid line tissue reducing support for the torso and internal organs.

During pregnancy d10659b956007a8cb0db207eebc3a695-png-650x393-google-chrome-07092016-20195870% of ladies develop Diastasis recti. Postpartum some women’s mid lines close to less than 2 finger-widths spontaneously, but for many, the tissue remains wider for a longer period. The gap can vary from 2-3cm to 18-20cm. A mid line of more than 2 centimetres could be problematic. During successive pregnancies this weakness can result in further separation and is also why many women ‘show’ quicker than they did with their first.

How to self-check Diastasis Recti:-
Lie on your back knees bent and feet flat on the floorHead and shoulders relaxed to start with fingers running up and down the linea alba (line down the stomach – especially belly button area), inhale and raise head and shoulders (only) off the floor you should be able to feel a tightening, the recti muscles will close on your fingers.
When you insert your fingers you will feel either a soft join where the muscles meet or you will feel a gap and maybe able to get 2-3 fingers into the gap.
Re-check on a regular basis.

Because these muscles form part of the support system for your back and abdominal organs, when they separate this support system is compromised. Whilst Diastasis Recti is neither life-threatening nor dangerous, it could cause physical issues including:  A ’mummy tummy  Lower back pain  Pelvic instability  Pelvic floor issues (incontinence or trouble controlling urination at times)  Increased risk of developing a hernia  Poor posture  Tilted uterus  Digestive issues (feeling bloated or other digestive problems)
By Emma Redding

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