Diastasis Recti and Why Men Should Listen Up
Diastasis recti is the abnormal widening of the linea alba between the two sides of the rectus abdominis. It is most commonly seen in postpartum women and hence can often be overlooked and under-diagnosed in men. Importantly, it can happen across all age groups and should be assessed for especially in people with low back pain.
The linea alba is a tendinous connective tissue that runs down the middle of the abdomen between the rectus abdominis muscles aka abs. Alongside the abs, the internal and external obliques, and transverse abdominal muscles all connect to the linea alba and the entire muscle group is known as the “core”. The core facilitates force transmission from the legs to the arms in just about every type of movement in our daily lives from lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling and jumping to sports such as tennis, golf, squash, badminton, swimming, running, boxing, Muay Thai, dancing, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and more. Without a proper functioning core, compensations start to happen
2 causes of diastasis recti in men and how it affects you
1) Overexerting in the core
Typically, an over-emphasis on core exercises, excessive bracing/performing Valsava maneuvers during squats/deadlifts without contracting the transverse abdominis can cause excessive shearing forces to the connective tissue which results in the linear alba stretching sideways over time.
When left unaddressed, short-term problems such as core instability, low back pain, inability to perform daily activities, inability to carry moderate to heavy loads, frequently needing to brace when changing positions, random episodes of “blowing” your back and even anterior hip pain. Long-term problems can include abdominal hernias and poor digestive function
2) Growing a beer belly
A “beer belly” is formed when excessive calories are deposited around the abdominal organs also known as visceral fat. As this visceral fat accumulates, it becomes more and more packed and eventually pushes out on the abdominal wall. Over time, the abdominal wall will stretch to accumulate this increase of visceral fat. However, the belly will always feel hard as the abdominal wall consists of muscles and non-elastic fibrous tissues.
The best and only solution for a beer belly is to cut back on alcohol consumption and to lose weight. Cutting back on alcohol consumption is necessary as alcohol is seen as a toxin by the body and is preferentially cleared by the liver instead of fat.
How do I know if I have diastasis recti?
A quick self-assessment is to check for any vertical bulge or excessive gapping along the midline of the tummy when doing a crunch. Diastasis recti can occur either above or below the belly button or both. Once you have done a crunch, hold that position and feel for the gapping by pointing your fingers towards your feet and placing them above and below the belly button. A gap of 1 finger or less is normal but a gap of more than 1 finger is indicative of diastasis recti.
What can I do if I have diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti in men tends to go undiagnosed due to the low awareness about this condition and physiotherapy treatment for diastasis recti can be very effective. If you suspect that you may be experiencing diastasis recti but you are unsure or would like to seek medical advice, do make an appointment with our team of physiotherapists. For advice on whether you have diastasis recti and how to resolve it, do book an appointment with a physiotherapist.