Every week in my practice I hear, “I realized I might have it (DRA), so I started doing research online … but there is so much conflicting information – I didn’t know what to do! So I decided to see a professional.”
Diastasis recti abdominis (DRA) is becoming something of a buzz word in the mommy-fitness world. As a women’s health specialist, I am elated that so many women are now aware of this condition and that there is effective, natural, NON-SURGICAL treatment available.
I am a bit anxious, however, about the swelling wave of professionals claiming to have “the secret” to fixing it.
If you’ve found this post, you have probably already done some reading online and you think you might have DRA. Maybe a friend mentioned it to you or you read a blog online about this scary split in the abs that happens after pregnancy, and gives you that saggy mommy pooch that just won’t go away.
So what do you do about it?
This is where things get dicey. There is a lot, and I mean A LOT, out there on the internet about how to “fix” diastasis. Not all of it is accurate or supported by any kind of scientific evidence. That is partly because we don’t have much research on the condition or how best to treat it, and what we do have is somewhat inconclusive. As for any musculoskeletal condition arising postpartum, any woman with concerns about diastasis should first consult with a women’s health physical therapist specializing in postpartum care. Women’s health/pelvic PTs are the most educated and qualified professionals to assess and treat these issues. However I understand that not everyone has access to a pelvic PT, so if you are choosing a different category of professional to help you sort through the mess and help you heal, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- What level of education and training does this person have?
Do they have any formal education on anatomy, muscle function, pregnancy/postpartum complications and healing, pelvic floor dysfunction, ligament healing principles, exercise physiology or biomechanics? Or do they simply have a “B.I.S.” (Bachelors of Internet Searching)? Reading a ton of articles and blogs on the internet does not make you an expert, nor does it qualify you to diagnose and treat a medical condition.
- Is their primary claim at being an expert based on personal experience?
Is the main pitch a glossy photo of their own 6-pack? The fact that they “got their abs back” after their own baby? Diastasis is a complex condition that can involve a lot of factors besides just the abdominal muscles. I am so happy that this person was able to find a strategy that worked for them – but that does not make them an expert on postpartum dysfunction, nor does it mean their strategy will work for other bodies that are completely different from their own.
- Are they promising you the moon?
Any professional who has studied diastasis and worked with a lot of DRA clients is aware that conservative methods cannot “fix” everyone. Healing DRA in terms of getting it to close completely is not always possible, nor is it necessary to give you great core muscle function and strength. If someone says they have “the key” and can absolutely fix you in “X” weeks, they may be overstating their abilities.
I am not saying these folks can’t help you – many of them do have considerable knowledge and can certainly get you started (as long as they aren’t saying things like “go do planks and crunches”). If your DRA is mild and acute (you haven’t had it for long), and you don’t have complicating factors or longstanding muscle imbalances, you might do very well with these programs/professionals. If, however, you have had DRA for a long time, if it is quite severe, if you have other complicating factors like urinary incontinence, prolapse or pain, or if you have tried other programs to no avail, I strongly recommend you see a pelvic physical therapist who specializes in postpartum care. And if you have easy access to a specialist (for example you live in San Diego and can come see me at SHEFit, wink-wink,) you should strongly consider starting with a pelvic PT in the first place!
Dr. Sheri DeSchaaf, DPT
To download Dr. Sheri’s key facts on diastasis recti, click here.