“Testing” for Diastasis Recti: Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the many variables that can influence the findings of your DR assessment and how to reduce the variability of your findings by better “controlling your controllables.” In Part 2, we will focus on what to do after you have your results.

Stop Focusing on “Closing the Gap”

With the standard definition of Diastasis Recti being an inter-recti distance (IRD) of 2.7cm (or a gap wider than about 2 finger-widths), we seem to have become obsessed with “closing the gap” as the one and only measure of success.  Despite how much progress we make with clients, we often hear them asking “but when will the gap be completely closed?”.  While some degree of gap closure is one measure of success when a client has an IRD greater than 2.7cm, there are some challenges with focusing on complete closure as the only way to measure success:

You don’t know a client’s pre-pregnancy IRD

Most likely, you did not check your client for DR pre-pregnancy. Therefore, you don’t know what her “normal” was like before DR developed, or if her postpartum IRD is even that different from her pre-pregnancy IRD.  Perhaps she has always had a slight gap, and therefore why would we expect her to completely close it now?

We don’t have a standard for “normal” postpartum IRD

While there is some variability with respect to defining DR, the same is true for what should be considered a “normal” postpartum IRD. Therefore, it is hard to figure out exactly when a woman is “fully healed” or how long to keep her in core recovery.  If we haven’t assessed a client’s IRD prior to pregnancy, and don’t know how her body has changed throughout the pregnancy journey, how can we know when she has recovered “fully”?

Women can actually have a “functional DR”

Even though your client may have DR according to the classical definition (IRD wider than 2.7 cm), she may still have the ability to create good tension in her linea alba and maintain core control during desired activities. This indicates that she has a functional DR. So, a wider IRD does not necessarily indicate a problem, and therefore may not require more core recovery. Eventually, a client may settle on a new postpartum IRD and be fully functional and pain-free.

A Better Way to Gauge Success

When measuring our clients’ healing progress, we still want to consider the degree of IRD closure as one factor, but it should not be the ONLY one and — based on the points above — we don’t need to strive for complete closure with all our clients.  Below are some other important factors that should be considered in measuring success:

  • Absence of pain
  • Absence of “coning” in belly during movement
  • Ability to create good tension in the linea alba
  • Ability to maintain good core control during movements

Helping Your Clients Achieve Success

Now that we’ve hopefully broadened your sense of what DR recovery success looks like, let’s focus on how to get your clients started on their path to success. Regardless of their degree of DR, the primary goals are the same:

  1. Re-establish the brain-to-core connection: Tissue trauma — from pregnancy-related tissue lengthening to childbirth-induced stretching and tearing — disrupts the signals from the brain-to-core connection. This connection needs to be re-established in order for the system to come back “online” and be responsive to firing in coordination with the demands being placed on it. The first step in this process is to “re-educate” the tissues so they know how to engage when asked.
  2. Build core strength and capacity: After motor control has been established, we can then focus on building core strength and increasing its ability to withstand a variety of stresses in a variety of contexts.

To get you started on goal #1, check out these Core Recovery Exercises.  These movements work the smaller, more isolated components of the Core Canister in order to re-establish that brain-to-core connection.  If your clients focus on consistently practicing this series of exercises, they will undoubtedly feel (and likely see) a positive difference in their core.

Want More Support?

If you’re interested in learning more about proper core training, diastasis recti, and all the other factors that go into training women for this incredible journey from pregnancy through motherhood, check out our Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist education.