- Ab Separation
Whether your abs feel weak or you see an odd bulge down the midline of your belly, we’ve got you. Separated abs — PTs call it diastasis rectus abdominis (DRA) — is common postpartum and can also be the result of overworking your abs. It’s never too late to repair DRA, but the sooner you do, the better: If left untreated, side effects can include back pain and bladder/bowel leaks.
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During pregnancy, connective tissue between the rectus abdominis muscles stretches to fit your baby (picture taffy being gently pulled apart), creating a gap. At the gym, DRA can be the result of overworking upper abdominals while undertraining deeper core muscles.
Your PT will work with you to create a therapeutic exercise program that can improve DRA without surgery. Your treatment plan may include:
Increasing tension in connective tissue takes time. Most patients notice improvement within 6-8 weeks and see a more significant change in 3+ months. Be patient with your body!
Diastasis recti is the stretching of the linea alba, the midline connective tissue between the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” muscles. Without adequate tension in the linea alba, your abdominals are not well supported. Long-term effects can include back pain and poor posture, as well as pelvic floor issues, including bladder and bowel leaks.
Diastasis recti isn’t always visible, but many patients with DRA notice a bulge down the midline of their belly, especially when their abdominal muscles are tensed during exercise or when coughing. Other patients report still looking pregnant, months or years after they’ve delivered their baby.
The best way to know if you have DRA is to be evaluated by a physical therapist online or in-person, but you can try checking yourself at home:
Our patients typically see improvement in the first 6-8 weeks and a more noticeable difference in 3+ months. As physical therapists, we want you to be able to safely do all the activities you need and love to do, without having to worry about pain, injury, or other negative side effects of DRA.
The safest exercises for you will depend on several factors, including your fitness level and the severity of your DRA. One of the benefits of working with a physical therapist is that they can design an ideal therapeutic exercise program for you.
Two exercises to be careful with: crunches and planks. Crunches can worsen DRA, so you’ll want to avoid them. Your physical therapist will also show you strategies for avoiding crunch-like movements during everyday activities, like getting in and out of bed. Whether or not planks are safe will depend on the extent of your DRA. Your physical therapist can watch you do one and let you know.
The latest research shows that 100% of women have DRA in the third trimester. This is because some stretching of the tissue between the abdominals is necessary to fit a growing baby. The good news: Your physical therapist can help you proactively treat DRA during pregnancy to reduce its severity — and make it easier to repair — postpartum.
Taking care of yourself shouldn’t break the bank.
We’re in-network with most insurance plans.
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