Diastasis Recti Abdominis- An “Ab-Splitting” Situation

by in Chiropractic Care, Physical Therapy and Rehab November 4, 2013

It may sound like a Harry Potter spell, but in reality this condition can be pretty serious!

Diastasis means “separation” and the Recti Abdominis refer to your “six-pack abs”. These muscles attach to the linea alba (meaning “white line”) which runs from the xiphoid process to the pubic symphysis.


  • Sustained intra-abdominal pressure due to pregnancy, poor posture, chronic bloating, or obesity.
  • Abdominal surgery to include C-sections, hernia repair, or abdominioplasty.
  • Poor technique with “core” exercises. If you cannot activate and hold in your Transversus Abdominis (deepest abdominal muscle), then over-exerting the Rectus Abdominis (superficial abdominal muscle) can exacerbate a diastasis with crunches, sit-ups, or planks.

Note: “Pregnancy is not the primary cause of diastasis; a woman’s abs are designed to make room for a growing child and then return to normal. It is a person’s posture and activity – scenarios that increase forceful pressure on a weakened linea alba – that determine the amount of strain and separation to the linea alba.”2

Potential health problems1:

  • A weakened abdominal wall does not support the organs for them to function properly. Subsequent health issues include bowel displacement, herniation, or prolapse.
    • If you cannot activate your Transversus Abdominis then the internal organs tend to rest upon the pelvic floor, increasing incontinence or “leaking”.
  • Any weakness in the core will have a chain reaction on the rest of the musculoskeletal system. Common problems include lower back pain, compressed discs, bursitis, etc

How to check yourself2:

  • Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your fingers vertically over the bellybutton.
    • Feeling a surface pulse is an instant sign of a very thinned linea alba.
  • Lift ONLY your head off the floor SLOWLY. Concentrate on when the two sides of the rectus abdominus FIRST stick out.

A healthy linea alba will feel the same as putting a finger between two of your knuckles. The question is, how many finger-widths can you fit between the gap? This is the number for your diastasis/ separation.

  • Check yourself along the length of the linea alba by repeating 2-3 inches above/below the naval.

What can you do to help the diastasis heal and prevent it from worsening?1

  • Belly Breathe. When you breathe OUT, pull your belly button IN. As you exhale fully, practice holding or do gentle pulsing maneuvers by drawing your naval towards your spine and ribs.
  • Pay attention to your Posture. Utilize upright activities. Avoid slumped sitting. Tighten your transverse abs, squeeze your glutes, and draw your shoulder blades down and back 5x/hour.
    • Try to draw in your naval EVERY time you bend, lift, reach, turn, squat, etc!
  • Avoid aggravating factors. Eliminate crunch-like motions, sit-ups, or high-impact activities for now. You should resume planks, running, and jumping ONLY once your split has closed. You MUST have proper core control to resume these activities.

“The injury is improved by correcting alignment… and discontinuing any exercise or activity in which you cannot keep your transverse abdominus actively engaged.”2

For more information on how to check for a diastasis and corrective exercises, contact our office at 865.691.3155.