Can Diastasis Recti Be Cured with Exercise?

Diastasis recti can be cured with exercise. Surgical intervention is typically not necessary unless the patient develops a hernia or chooses to undergo a tummy tuck so they can enjoy immediate results. Physical therapy and home exercises have both proven effective treatments, however.

The Goal of Exercises Designed to Prevent Diastasis Recti

Exercises that help diastasis recti are those that build abdominal muscle without further straining the connective tissue between the muscles. Strengthening the muscles and connective tissue will allow the body to slowly repair itself, pulling the abdominal muscles back together again. The most effective exercises are those that work your deep abdominal muscles.

Exercises to Avoid if You Have Diastasis Recti

Although the goal is to work your abdominal muscles, many of the traditional exercises we think of—like sit-ups— are actually horrible at fixing diastasis recti. Some can make the condition worse. The key to choosing the right exercises is to pay attention to your stomach when you do them. Any exercise that exaggerates your belly bulge or causes tenting in the abdomen is one you should avoid. Exercises to steer clear of include:

  • Crunches and sit-ups
  • Planking
  • Push-ups
  • Downward dog and boat yoga poses
  • Double leg-lifts
  • Scissors

Best Diastasis Recti Exercises

Men and women can both experience diastasis recti, and the exercises they should do to treat it are the same. Before you begin an exercise program, you should talk to your doctor and confirm that you do have diastasis recti. They may suggest home exercises but might prefer to send you for physical therapy. Here are some of the best home exercises for treating the condition. You should try to perform them three or four times a week.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Breathing may not seem like exercise, but taking full, deep breaths engages your abdominal muscles and can help strengthen them. To make sure you’re doing this exercise properly, lie on your back with your knees bent. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach and take a deep breath. The hand on your stomach should rise, but the one on your chest should not. Count to three and then exhale. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Pelvic Floor Contraction (Kegels)

This exercise helps diastasis recti but also eases two of its side effects: urinary incontinence and painful intercourse. To do it, lie on your back with your knees bent. Contract the muscles of your pelvic floor the way you would if you were trying to stop your urine stream. Hold for five seconds and then release. Repeat 10 times.

Pelvic Tilts

Pelvic tilts are an excellent way to strengthen your abs and improve your posture. Once again, lie on your back with your knees bent. Engage your abdominal muscles and tilt your pelvis upward, lengthening your spine and pushing your back into the floor. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat for 10 repetitions.

The Glute Bridge

A great way to work on your glutes and your abdomen, the glute bridge is adaptable as you get stronger. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your arms down at your sides. Then slowly lift your hips up off the floor. The goal is to try and make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, although you may not get quite that far at first. Hold the position for 30 seconds before releasing. As you get stronger, slowly increase the amount of time you hold the position, eventually working up to two minutes.

Lying Bent Knee Pulls

Deceptively simple, this easy exercise can make a big difference. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended. Slowly pull one knee toward your chest. Keep your abdominals tight while you perform the movement and keep your back pressed into the floor. When your knee is in position you may hold it with your hands. Hold the position for three seconds and then switch legs. Do 10 repetitions.

Heel Taps

A bit more advanced, heel taps work your abdomen, lower back, thighs, and glutes all at once. You guessed it: start this exercise lying on your back with your knees bent. Lift your knees, keeping them bent and aligned over your hips. Rest your arms at your side and slowly squeeze your pelvic muscles while you inhale. As you exhale, straighten one leg and lower it until your heel touches the floor. Bring your leg back up to where you started and then switch sides.

Ideally you will do 20 repetitions, but you may need to do fewer when you first start exercising. It’s okay to start with 10 or even five reps in the beginning while you’re getting the hang of it. The important thing is to focus on doing the exercise properly.

Elevated Kick Outs

To perform elevated kick outs, you’ll first need to get into position. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Flex your abdominal muscles to push your back into the floor. Hold this tension throughout the exercise. Now straighten your knees, lifting your legs straight up into the air (or as close to straight as you can comfortably get.)

Start with your legs together and then slowly spread them wide, pulling them out to either side of your body. Go only as far as you can without bending your knees. Hold the position for a count of two and then slowly bring your legs together again. Aim for 10 repetitions.

Quadruped Paper Slides and Reaches

This one takes some practice but is a great way to work your core. Start on all fours. Your hips should be over your knees and your shoulders over your hands. As you exhale, tighten your pelvic and abdominal muscles. Extend your right arm out in front of you and your left leg out behind you. If you’re just starting out, it’s okay to slide your hand forward and your leg backward without lifting them. Return to your starting position and inhale.

Repeat the exercise again, this time switching to the other hand and leg. Strive for ten repetitions, but do five if that’s too much.

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