Best Exercises for Diastasis Recti Recovery (Heal Your Core)

Best Exercises for Diastasis Recti Recovery (Heal Your Core)

Diastasis recti is a common condition where the rectus abdominis muscles (the “six-pack” muscles) separate along the midline of the abdomen. This separation, known as abdominal separation, can occur due to pregnancy, obesity, or incorrect exercise practices. It can lead to a protruding belly, lower back pain, urinary incontinence, and core weakness. Proper exercise plays a crucial role in the recovery process, helping to strengthen and restore the core muscles effectively. Engaging in the best exercises for diastasis recti and physical therapy can significantly improve your quality of life.

How do I know if I have diastasis recti?

To determine if you have diastasis recti, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers just above your belly button and lift your head and shoulders slightly off the ground as if performing a crunch. Feel for a gap or a bulge in the midline of your abdomen. If you notice a separation of more than two fingers’ width, you likely have diastasis recti. Consulting a healthcare provider, such as a physical therapist, for a proper diagnosis is also recommended. They can assess the extent of your abdominal muscle separation and help you create a tailored exercise program.

Can diastasis recti be corrected with exercise?

Yes, diastasis recti can often be improved and sometimes fully corrected with specific exercises that target the deep core muscles. The key is to perform exercises that strengthen the transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, and diaphragm while avoiding movements that put excessive pressure on the abdominal wall. A core stability exercise program designed by a healthcare provider or physical therapist can be very effective. Safe core exercises can help you regain strength and stability, essential for overall well-being, especially during the postpartum period.

What are the best exercises for diastasis recti?

What are the best exercises for diastasis recti?

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, helps activate the diaphragm and transverse abdominis and is considered to be one of the best exercises for diastasis recti. To do this exercise, inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to rise, and exhale through your mouth, drawing your belly button towards your spine. This technique can be included in your daily core exercises to promote healing and improve breathing mechanics, especially for pregnant women and those in the postpartum period.

Pelvic Floor Activations

Engaging the pelvic floor muscles is essential for core stability. Perform Kegel exercises by contracting and relaxing the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. Pelvic floor exercises support the connective tissue and can prevent conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.

Supine Marches

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift one leg at a time to a 90-degree angle, maintaining core stability and ensuring your lower back stays in contact with the floor. Supine marches are gentle exercises that can be included in an abdominal exercise program to strengthen the core without causing abdominal separation.

Heel Slides

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slowly slide one heel away from your body, keeping your core engaged and back flat against the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Heel slides are effective exercises for gently working the core and lower body.

Leg Lifts

While lying on your back, lift one leg straight up, keeping the other leg bent. Lower the leg slowly without touching the floor, then lift again. Repeat on both sides. Leg lifts are beneficial for strengthening the lower abs and improving overall core stability.

Toe Taps

Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower one foot to tap the floor, then return to the starting position. Alternate between legs. Toe taps are a great addition to a core stability exercise program, providing a safe way to engage the lower abdomen.

Quadruped Paper Slides and Reaches

On your hands and knees, slide a paper plate or cloth under one hand and extend it forward while keeping your core engaged. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other hand. This exercise helps in stabilizing the core and improving coordination.

Abdominal Compressions

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands on your lower abdomen and gently press down as you exhale, engaging the deep core muscles. Abdominal bracing exercises like this can help close the gap caused by diastasis recti.

Pelvic Tilts

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Flatten your lower back against the floor by tilting your pelvis upward, engaging your core muscles. Release and repeat. Pelvic tilts are a foundational exercise for core stability and should be a regular part of any exercise regimen.

Single-Leg Stretches

Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other knee bent. Slowly lift the extended leg while keeping the other foot flat on the floor. Alternate legs. Single-leg stretches can enhance flexibility and core strength, making them excellent for postpartum women.

Bridges with Belly Scoop

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Lift your hips towards the ceiling while scooping your belly button inward. Lower back down and repeat. Bridges with belly scoop are effective exercises for strengthening the glutes and lower back while engaging the core.

Diastasis Recti Exercises To Avoid

Avoid diastasis recti exercises that can exacerbate the condition, such as traditional crunches, sit-ups, planks, and any movement that causes your belly to bulge or puts excessive strain on your abdominal wall. Strenuous exercises and activities that involve heavy lifting or twisting can make the condition worse. Always consult a physical therapist or healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.

Additional Tips for Diastasis Recti Management

Additional Tips for Diastasis Recti Management

Proper Posture and Body Mechanics

Maintaining good posture and proper body mechanics can help support your core and reduce strain on your abdominal muscles. Avoid activities that increase intra-abdominal pressure, such as heavy lifting or high-impact exercises.

Nutritional Considerations

Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients supports overall health and can aid in the healing process. Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle repair, while vitamins and minerals support connective tissue health.

Compression Garments

Wearing compression garments or abdominal binders can provide additional support to your core muscles during the recovery process. These garments help in maintaining a neutral position and can reduce discomfort.

Pelvic Floor Therapy

Consider working with a pelvic floor therapist to receive personalized guidance and exercises to strengthen your core and pelvic floor. This specialized therapy can be crucial for preventing pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.

Stress Management

Managing stress through techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga can positively impact your recovery. High stress levels can affect muscle tension and overall health, making recovery slower.

Regular Check-Ups and Monitoring

Regularly check your progress and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure you are on the right track. Monitoring your condition helps in making necessary adjustments to your exercise regimen.

Patience and Consistency

Recovery from diastasis recti takes time and consistent effort. Be patient and stick to your exercise routine. Remember, healing is a gradual process, and consistency is key to long-term success.

Conclusion

Healing diastasis recti requires a combination of targeted exercises, proper posture, knowing what diastasis recti exercises to avoid, and overall health management. By incorporating the recommended exercises and avoiding harmful movements, you can strengthen your core and improve your abdominal health. Always consult with a healthcare provider or physical therapist to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly and safely.

At Continuous Motion PT, we specialize in providing comprehensive treatment for diastasis recti, offering personalized physical therapy programs designed to heal and strengthen your core. Our expert team utilizes safe and effective exercises for pelvic pain relief, ensuring a holistic approach to recovery. Whether you’re postpartum or managing chronic conditions, Continuous Motion PT is dedicated to helping you achieve optimal health and well-being through tailored therapeutic interventions.

FAQs

What is the fastest way to heal diastasis recti?

Consistently performing targeted exercises, maintaining proper posture, and using compression garments can expedite the healing process. However, patience and persistence are key. Engaging in a deep core stability exercise program tailored to your needs is crucial for effective recovery.

Can walking correct diastasis recti?

While walking alone cannot correct diastasis recti, it can be a beneficial low-impact activity that supports overall health and complements a core-strengthening exercise routine. Regular exercise, including gentle walking, promotes circulation and aids in the healing process.

Does diastasis recti heal itself?

In some cases, diastasis recti may improve on its own, especially after childbirth. However, specific exercises and proper management are often needed to fully heal and restore core strength. A structured abdominal exercise program can significantly enhance recovery.

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Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified