Recovering from Diastasis Recti
Diastasis Recti Is ...
Shortly after giving birth, I noticed that I had a pretty serious case of diastasis recti, which is when your abdominal muscles separate. Based on what I've read, you can get this from extreme exercise (like bodybuilder extreme), being pregnant, and little kids can have until the age of 3 or so. My separation was five fingers wide in the area under my belly button. The tissue there was very squishy and didn't seem to offer any real support or protection.
There are lots of websites and YouTube videos on how to figure out if you have diastisis recti. They will also help you measure how severe the separation is. I researched this years ago, so I don't recall the exact websites or videos I looked at, but I've included a link to a current video above.
Preventing Further Damage
The most important thing I did when recovering from diastasis recti was to make sure I didn't make it worse. So, when getting up or lying down, I did it from my side and not my back. Meaning, I wouldn't sit up by doing an abdominal crunch. I always flipped onto one side, propped myself up on my elbow, and then pushed myself up to sitting.
When lying down, I did the reverse. I tilted to my side first, and then lowered myself down by first leaning on my elbow and then lying down on my side. Only then would I flip onto my back. I always did this no matter what, even if I was at the doctor's office.The reason I took these precautions was because I read that any kind of sit-up or crunch motion would push against my separated abdominal muscles more, potentially making it worse and harder to heal.
Closing the Gap
The second most important thing I did was to give myself time. It wasn't until 3 years after having the kids that I felt comfortable doing crunches again. During 2 of those years, I worked on strengthening my transverse abdominus.
I think of the transverse abdominus as two muscles that are deep in my abdomen, and I engaged them by pulling my belly as far back as I could towards my spine and holding it there. I would do this usually while driving, but really it was whenever I remembered. There were various programs that might have helped me heal faster, but I wasn't in a rush, and eventually I got there by doing this move consistently over time. Here is an informative NPR article about diastasis recti and one of the programs to recover and heal from it.
My stomach was pretty messed up after delivering twins. Even after my uterus shrunk down, there was a lot of loose skin and a long dent in the middle where my muscles had separated. I didn't have a belly button for the longest time ... just a darkened circle on a flat stretch of skin.
Over time, my skin tightened up and the appearance of the indentation also improved as my diastasis recti healed. I couldn't have imagined it when I was in that first year after having my kids, but the passage of time, daily movements to strengthen my tranverse abdominals, and being careful when getting up and lying down fixed my diastatis recti to the point where I can now do crunches and have a functional core.