How do you know if you have diastasis recti?
Firstly, if you are pregnant or newly postpartum, please do not conduct the exercise or test described below. However, you can follow the guidelines mentioned in the following article, so that you do not cause damage to your linea alba.
After about 10 or more weeks postpartum, feel free to complete the exercise detailed below, log your findings, and continue to check and monitor your diastasis recti.
If you notice any bulging, coning, or doming along your linea alba when sitting up from a laying down position, or when laying down from a sitting position, or when doing any exercises that require abdominal strength, you should perform the exercise below to check. If you have been diagnosed with a hernia in your abdomen (umbilical is most common), please consult with a medical professional before performing the below exercise.
Steps to check for diastasis recti:
First look at your abdomen, either as you are sitting or standing or use a hand mirror to check your stomach while laying down. Look at your belly button and note if there is any bulging, or off-center discrepancies (pulling more to one side etc..). These may be signs that something more serious is going on, like a possible herniation. In addition to completing the exercise below, it may also be a good idea to check in with a health professional.
There are three spots in particular that you will be checking:
Halfway between your belly button and your xiphoid process (lower point of sternum),
right above your belly button, and
below your belly button.
Now remember, you may feel a space between the right and left rectus abdominals (sometimes the edge of each muscle feels like a little ridge) and the width of that gap can vary from person to person, but what we are more concerned with is if the linea alba is firm.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet to floor, take 2-3 fingers running horizontally to your body, and find the area halfway between your belly button and your xiphoid process.
On an exhale, slightly tuck your chin and lift up your head and shoulders (as if you are starting an abdominal crunch), and use your fingers to apply gentle pressure downwards towards the floor.
You will notice one of the following:
a) either your linea alba will provide resistance against your fingers (in other words, it is firm),
b) your fingers will sink in as if you are pressing into a soft pillow, or
c) you may feel something pushing out towards your fingers, as if you are bulging out in that area.
If you experience a): great, your linea alba is functioning how it is supposed to in this area.
If you experience b): Add or subtract fingers to measure the width of your diastasis. Be sure to log your measurements, follow the guidelines in the next article, and continue to monitor your progress. Do not be discouraged or feel unsettled if you notice extreme softness or a wide gap. Diastasis recti and the linea alba can be healed. However if you do not notice improvement, contact a health care professional that can work with you. That being said, I would be weary of a healthcare professional who suggests surgery as the only way to repair.
If you experience c): it may be worth contacting a medical professional to assess. A bulging or outward pressure could indicate a risk of herniation which you want to avoid.
Continue steps 1 and 2 with the area right above your belly button, and then below your belly button.
If I’m just checking my linea alba, why do I check when performing an abdominal crunch?
The exercise above is really a two part exercise; it is checking not only the function of the linea alba, but also of the front abdominal system as a whole.
Our skeleton is mostly absent in our abdomen so that we are able to have greater movement of this area. However, this area contains some really important organs that we need to protect, so our abdominal system needs the ability to become ‘armor’ when needed. Unfortunately, we may not notice issues with our abdominal system, until it is called into action. Someone may not know he or she has diastasis recti, but notices his or her abdomen, or more specifically parts of the linea alba, bulging, coning, or peaking when performing abdominal crunches. This means, when the abdominals are called into action, a weak spot in his or her abdominal ‘armor’ is exposed.