One of my favourite topics is pelvic floor and abdominals. Such an important subject, and much had been written about it - and there is so much conflicting info out there.
Let's get a few facts straight.
Postnatal recovery can be super challenging and not every woman is able to "spring back to form" as doctors say we eventually should after adequate time, rest, and gentle exercise.
Yes, I know, "rest" while having a newborn, or even a young child, is something that is in scarce supply. I've been there, and it's a tough place to be.
But, after all that craziness calms down, sometimes we are left with a tummy that still looks pregnant, or a pelvic floor that feels heavy, not doing its job as well as it used to (that's another subject for another day).
The pregnant-looking tummy post having a baby - a tummy that just won't shrink - is most likely due to Diastasis recti, also called "Mummy Tummy". It is caused by separated vertical Rectus abdominis muscles, it's left and right halves sheared wider than normal. They have a band of connective tissue between the two vertical halves of it, and those tissues don't always heal as hoped.
Sometimes, a visible gap is seen around the midline of the abdomen. Often, it goes with back pain, and sometimes is accompanied with a hernia.
Why is all this happening to some of us?
There are some contributory factors, potentially age, genetics, etc... but the main reason behind this is more bio-mechanical. There is something preventing the healing, and that tends to be:
- how we breathe; and... or....
- how the spine, ribcage and pelvis move.
Good breathing is a super important mechanism through which we achieve core engagement. Not just core engagement - but good loading of our muscles and bones. The body loves to be loaded, used, being functional and useful!
Good core engagement and appropriate loading that we handle WELL in our bodies leads to a stable pelvis, mobile spine, better posture and stronger abdominals. Stronger abdominals are those that are able to lengthen and shorten appropriately, not just muscles that are "tense and tight".
If we breathe primarily into the belly, we stretch the abdominal wall, exacerbating any existing gap between vertical rectus muscles, and we don't achieve good core engagement (or good, useful, loading in our body tissues) as the ribcage and other structures are not involved much.
If our posture is such that our pelvis tips forward (the so-called "anterior tilt"), this might exacerbate belly breathing tendencies and further lengthen the already stretched abdominals.
If our ribcage is not moving well, does not like to rotate, side-bend, flex and extend with the spine, then we are not using the other core muscles that attach to the ribcage optimally - these are our Obliques and yes, the same Rectus abdominis vertical muscle.
It is the balance between all the more superficial core muscles and the deepest core muscle, called Transverse Abdominis, that gives us a strong and resilient abdominal wall. If one or more of these components is inhibited, an imbalance occurs. The central connective tissues, stretched through pregnancy, cannot heal well if there are unequal forces pulling it in ways preventing good loading and healing.
So healing diastasis recti is not a spot treatment with a few tummy exercises. It is truly an all-over body approach to review and optimise our breathing, mobility for our ribcage and spine, and other components.
Not a few tummy crunches that used to be prescribed to strengthen the belly. That, my reader, is very much last-century.
I run evening Restore Your Core and morning Pilates therapy classes where we learn new movement patterns helping us heal diastasis recti and make our abdominals, and the rest of our body, more functional and resilient.
If you would like to chat to me in confidence about any concerns about your abdominal wall, please reach out to me on
07768 135481 or
www.facebook.com/movebeyondUK via Messenger.
To your health, Kaye